Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pride & Prejudice Redux

(with apologies to Jane Austen)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single (or married) Moroccan man in possession of a pulse, must be in want of an American wife."

Within my inner circle of ex-pat friends, it is has been an ongoing joke ('joke' being the operative word) that Moroccan men, from childhood, are equipped with the most recent edition of the timeless & bestselling manual "How to Bag a Foreign Visa". From the government's perspective, it behoves every red-blooded Moroccan male (and to a lesser degree female, because unlike her male counterpart, she must marry a Muslim or a convert to Islam) to score said visa. As an MRE (Moroccan Living Abroad), he will become one of many like-minded matrimonial & work-visa jackpot winners who divert rivers of hard currency (over 2 billion Euros last year alone) back into Morocco every year. From the community's perspective (and our bachelor's), he can get the hell out of Dodge (leaving behind a life of hardship, real or perceived) where the grass is always greener.

Now, this Manual (akin to the guidebook that mothers the world-over possess, replete with axioms like 'don't come running to me when you break your legs') pretty much covers everything that the Moroccan male needs to know in order to secure himself a western visa bride. "How to Bag a Foreign Visa" is the great democratizer in what is a class-conscious country; even the lowliest of the low can win the jackpot if he follows the Manual carefully. But if our bachelor is bereft of any redeeming physical qualities, failed in Charm School, and is having difficulties in scoring, he can always resort to the recently-added chapter "How to Bag an Old Bag" and aim for someone a little longer in the tooth. Alas, advanced age is neither an impediment to love nor a harbinger of wisdom. I am sorry dumbfounded to say that I have played recent witness to such victories against two university-educated female colleagues whom one would otherwise deem intelligent, sentient and not-unattractive. Neither of the men in question has high school diplomas and is a minimum of 16 years his fiancée's junior. Ain't love grand? When such engagements become official, I can't help but see in my eye's mind, our victorious bachelor hollering a kick-ass whoop and pumping the air with his fist, all the while making a mental note to pass on his Holy-Grail of a Manual to his younger brother.

Bagging a bride visa is a highly complex waltz of seduction (usually) aimed at women of low self-esteem, carefully choreographed to ensure that she feels like she's in control and that her western feminist sensibilities are not being compromised. The Manual is a thing of cunning genius. It includes detailed chapters instructing our bachelors:

1) how to identify their prey (women of a "certain age" or low self-esteem are the most vulnerable)
2) how to attract them ("you are so beautiful, you make me crazy ...")
3) how to lure them in, and ("I've never met anyone like you, you are so different from Moroccan women, I want to start a family with you")
4) how to keep them dangling on the line (usually effected by not returning telephone calls & text messages for a week or so)
4) how to reel them in ("well, I never thought of leaving Morocco but if you really want to return to the States ...")

... and includes several appendices of handy tips, time-tested pick-up lines, and testimonials. Now although success is not guaranteed on the first foray, with time, perserverance, luck, and strict adherence to the Manual, our bachelor may yet strike gold. There is a sense of "if at first you don't succeed", and our bachelors are nothing if not single-minded and they all have a neighbour, cousin or friend-of-a-friend who bagged himself a bride visa.

Now what got me thinking of this? It seems that in Kansas City,

A Moroccan couple has pleaded guilty to entering into sham marriages with Moroccan citizens in an attempt to gain permanent resident status in the United States, according to a media report ... In their plea agreements, Mohamed Elouerrassi, 54, Gourche, 52, and their 24-year-old daughter admitted that their marriages were fraudulent and that they lied when they claimed to be living with their spouses. They could get five years in federal prison when they are sentenced, and could also be deported.

Tsk-tsk ... even our hallowed avatar of Islam, Ask-the-Iman raises an eyebrow at such practices: "A fake marriage is deception and lies which is expressly prohibited by Shari'ah (and Allah Ta'ala knows best, Mufti Ebrahim Desai"). Although not expressly referred to on his website, I'm certain that he would espouse usage of the Manual.

Surely this could have been avoided if they had just stuck to the Manual. I can only hope that these 3 Moroccans will serve as a cautionary tale to their visa-hunting compatriots back home who may, in a fit of inflated hubris, seek to forego the Manual and attempt to alter history with their own hands.

Note: "How to Bag a Foreign Visa" is not sold in stores.

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