Tuesday, February 28, 2006

To Halal & Back

I have made a conscious effort to not use this blog as a soapbox for my beliefs - although I know that a few have snuck in from time to time. This posting is yet another exception. If you want something "lighthearted", check out the posting below about the fellow caught rogering his goat. Consider yourself warned.

I received some criticism after I posted my
Eid El Kebir e-mail several weeks ago, in which I recounted the "sacrifice" of a sheep beneath my bedroom window. There were those who were quick to defend the halal ("permissible") slaughtering of animals as being humane, quick, and a far cry better than what transpires in Western slaughterhouses. I regret that I have a pretty vivid image of what happens in Western abattoirs and poultry factories & hatcheries, so I am not about to defend their brutal practices - far from it. But because any discussion that involves the word "halal" (in terms of food, its Jewish counterpart - oh that alone should insure that I receive a fatwa - is "kosher") is connected with Islam, and because (contrary to some of my comments in this blog) I really don't want to cast aspersions on anyone's faith (least of all to their faces), I have said little in this regard. Until now.

Islam requires that slaughter be carried out with a single cut to the throat, rather than the more widespread method of stunning with a bolt into the head before slaughter, because “God calls for mercy in everything, so be merciful when you kill and when you slaughter, sharpen your blade to relieve it’s pain”.
Electrocution is forbidden since halal slaughter requires the animal to be conscious and not contaminated by anaesthetics or intoxicating materials. Mild stunning for the subduement of larger, uncontrollable animals is being debated by Muslim jurists. In New Zealand
, a non-penetrating concussion stunning prior to slaughter received approval from some Muslim authorities. Break open the champagne.

There are 2 issues with religious slaughtering which animal welfare auditors have addressed: one is the method of dispatching (cutting the throat) and the other is the positioning of the animal to provide a quick and easy access to the throat. Even under the best of circumstances (i.e. a clean, speedy cut with no additional duress), it takes up to 2 minutes for an animal to bleed out. Muslims contend that the animal feels nothing because of the sudden loss of blood from the head, but to suggest that an animal doesn't suffer while bleeding to death (especially in the pandemonium of a slaughterhouse) is, in my mind, a little ingenuous. As an aside, I would note that it is forbidden for Sikhs to eat halal meat, because they believe the methods used to kill the animal are cruel, inefficiently slow, and unnecessarily painful. Having said that, "experiments" (which seem more tortuorus than the actual slaughtering - shades of Dr. Mengele?) were conducted by a pair of German doctors whose results support the claim that halal killing is less distressing than Western means of dispatching livestock.

In regards to the second concern, so-called religious slaughterhouses have been reproached for using shackles & hoists (to suspend a leg or legs), trip floor boxes (
a slanted floor or another device) which
cause the animal to fall down, as well as leg clamping rotating boxes (use your imagination) - in an effort to control the animal. Control? .... hmmmm, I wonder if the animal is plain scared shitless.

Nonetheless, let us turn to one of the cradles of civilisation -
Egypt. In ancient times, the cow was so revered that it became associated iconographically with not one goddess but several, including Hathor, Mehet-Weret (the goddess of creation) and Isis. But things have changed in the Black Land over the past 5,000 years. The Australian production of 60 Minutes recently aired a segment on the widespread animal welfare abuses practiced in Egyptian slaughterhouses, as charged by Animals Australia & PETA. Australia has been exporting live animals to E
gypt for decades (the industry is valued at half a billion dollars annually) & has received repeated assurances from the Egyptian government that the livestock is treated and killed humanely. Instead, the conditions, as filmed by 60 Minutes (with concealed cameras), were found to be "medieval", "gut-wrenching" and "barbaric". How barbaric? – well, it is not uncommon for knives to be plunged into the eye sockets of cattle (pre-throat cut) so that the submerged knife handle can be used as a lever to manipulate the animal. Restraint boxes for the animals (a drum-like apparatus in which an animal is tilted on its side to render a quick cutting) are either absent or not used.

Watch the
video if you have the stomach. I tried, but within moments, I could only listen to the voice-over.

"We found appalling abusesworkers stabbed animals in the eyes, slashed their tendons, and cut under their tails—all without any painkillers—before finally slitting their throats while they were still conscious."

It would seem that these Egyptian slaughterhouse owners & workers have placed greed before compassion, have forgotten that they should " fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak."

I would like to point out that this documentary has had the happy result of bringing about the suspension of live exports of Australian cattle & sheep to Egypt - a pyrrhic victory since the Australian government knew of these abuses 3 years ago.Because halal killing & Islam are intrinsically tied at the hip, perhaps the onus should be on Muslim meat-eaters to do something about this - why did it take Australians to blow the whistle? According to the Qur'an, there is no difference between the human world and the animal world in the eyes of Allah. If a Believer can be sent to hell for starving a cat, perhaps s/he can raise a hand to stop the torture of cattle and sheep in slaughterhouses which operates under the aegis of a merciful religion.

Islam purports to be compassionate to all living things and abhors the infliction of cruel and unnecessary pain on any animal, and that such brutality
is answerable to Allah on Judgement Day. Judgement Day has arrived in Cairo.

Don't misunderstand me - I don't live in a glass house. Do the same practices exist here in Morocco? probably. What about the flagrant animal rights abuses in North America - do they exist? Yup. What options do you & I have? – stop giving your money to agribusiness abattoirs, educate yourself on the subject of animal rights issues (look at the practices in North American hen factories and I bet you won’t eat eggs again - at the very least, boycott KFC), be informed, or better yet, stop eating meat. But like everything else in life, this is a matter of conscience for the individual. We can use our buying dollar as a tool to effect change; many of us have recourse to our elected members of government to legislate humanely. And if you do prescribe to the belief that "an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being", then for god's sake, practice what you preach.

For the Love of his Nanny

Sudan Man Forced to 'Marry' Goat

Lest the link dies a horrible death, I quote the story in its entirety (pinched from BBC news):

A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his 'wife' after he was caught having sex with the animal.

The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders. They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi. "We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said. Mr Alifi, Hai Malakal in Upper Nile State, told the Juba Post newspaper that he heard a loud noise around midnight on 13 February and immediately rushed outside to find Mr Tombe with his goat. "When I asked him: 'What are you doing there?', he fell off the back of the goat, so I captured and tied him up". Mr Alifi then called elders to decide how to deal with the case."They said I should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for my goat because he used it as his wife," Mr Alifi told the newspaper.

Personally, I think the goat should have retained the dowery, so she'll have something to fall back on in the event of a divorce. Who knows when some strumpet of a donkey will enter the picture? But I am pleased that she wasn't returned to her owner when it became apparent that she wasn't a virgin on her wedding night. Islam is making some progress, I see. Hopefully it was a lovely ceremony - wonder what they served?

To quote Chandler Bing, "Too many jokes ...."

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Case of the Purloined Palm

(or the Hand Job)

This past weekend, armed gunmen stormed the Museu da Chacara do Ceu in Rio de Janeiro and made off with a Picasso, a Matisse, a Monet and a Dali; this is sad news for those of us who must experience art in a communal environment. We working poor rely on museums for this very purpose - although if I could afford my own Matisse (or I could figure out how to steal one), I'd have one & everyone else could go to hell. I could so be one of those squirrelly recluses who nips down to the vault every night to have a snifter of brandy in front of The Art.

But I digress.

This sobering & timely piece of news has both influenced and tempered my musings today, for I too have been a recent victim of a theft, albeit of a slightly lower value - but can you put a price on your most cherished possessions? - obviously no. What about the pieces of crap you accumulate, the nebulous dust bunnies of stuff that litters your life? -of course you can, but is the theft any less galling? Now my little trinket cost me about $2 and it is far from irreplaceable (the word ubiquitous jumps to mine) and is, *ahem* no Matisse, but the fact that someone removed it from my premises pisses me off royally.

But with no further ado, I present

The Case of the Purloined Palm
(or the Hand Job)
I came home Saturday night to find missing the crappy little hand-shaped brass khamsa amulet (the word signifying 5, as in the number of fingers on a hand) that hangs from my apartment door. Now that I think of it, I don't believe that I even paid for it - the vendor, from whom I was buying some pottery, tossed it in gratis. As well he should because it was overpriced at 15 dirhams: the brass was thin enough to make bakhlava out of & the "jewel" which graced the hand can only be described as "red"; it made no claims on authenticity. Think Kool Aid: it was neither cherry nor strawberry, just red.

This little hand adorned my door for 5 months. It wasn't just a thing of rare beauty (okay it wasn't). It had a practical value - it was an all-too necessary mnemonic for me, a visual reminder that I was sticking my key into the right door. It embarrasses me to say that I have been known to get off the elevator on the incorrect floor and, unwittingly, try to break into the apartment above me. If there is such an ailment as juvenile Altzheimer's, I have it. Thus my khamsa hand guided me home every night. At Christmas, I hung jingle bells from my amulet, sowing tinkling seeds of spiritual harmony & religious synchretism every time I opened & closed the door. It is no more. Who would take such an insignificant piece of metal - a cleaning lady? Our concierge? I would prefer to think of it as a stranger to my hallway. Alas, I have no suspects, there is no curious incident of the dog in the night.

Now, not to put too fine a point on it, the khamsa hand is somewhat less of a religious icon than an iconographic symbol employed to ward off the evil eye. Hands representing Mohammed's daughter Fatima, created in metal, wood, paper and plastic, hennaed on bodies and fashioned into doorknockers are commonplace here. If its haram to doodle the prophet, then palming his daughter's hand in the dead of night can't be much better. Stealing my khamsa amulet is tantamount to nicking a crucifix. Call me naive, but I just can't get my head around that. If you're laying waste to a town and there's a well-stocked church to plunder, well go ahead. I believe that's called "retrieving" - there's a political and economic justification to it, not to mention historical precedent, which I can at least appreciate. The Shroud of Turin - that spurious sarong from the questionable crucifixion - has bounced back and forth between the powers that be on a number of occasions. And the Holy Grail - well just ask Dan Brown (the nob).

So my home is no longer safeguarded by Fatima - it'll be interesting to see if my domestic affairs improve or descend into chaos. Nonetheless, as an Infidel living among the Believers, I am somewhat aggrieved to know that such a cretinous, irreligious and/or indifferent villain is roaming apartment hallways snatching the protection vouchesafed by the Prophet's daughter. Is my soul not worth saving too? Is it not the duty of every Muslim to convert me? - well don't start by stealing my khamsa amulet! Stealing from me - nay! stealing from Fatima - isn't a very clever start. Not exactly the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

A footnote: Islam doesn't strike me as the most forgiving of religions: I may refrain from passing judgement, but there's always the Prophet's daughter to contend with. If my amulet is returned with the blue thumbtack unharmed, I promise to ask no questions. But as far as Fatima is concerned, the game's afoot. You guys play for keeps. Good luck with that.

Boxers or Briefs?

I often wallow in self-deprecating cesspools of depression for the simple fact that I have found no lucrative and/or critically appreciative market for what passes in me as creativity or talent. The fact that I'm inordinately lazy adds to my general sense of despondence. Usually it's a quirky book of beauty and humour which sends me into a tailspin - Wilton Barnhardt's Gospel put me in a blue funk for weeks. Give up, C in R, I told myself - with a book like this in existence, what was the point in writing? - it's been done - he wrote my book. Based on my academic background and own predeliction for squirrelling away bits of recondite arcana, I should have written the Da Vinci Code - but I didn't, did I? Why? - good question. So good in fact, that I'll still be asking myself that very question as their screwing the bolts into my coffin lid.

But what really sends me over the Precipice of Doubt & Self-Loathing are those whose cunning little brains concoct something so absurdly innane that success is virtually guaranteed. Case in point: underthings for your Mp3 player. I suppose that sexualizing our children wasn't enough - now we are forced to consider the cleavages & crotches of our home electronics. So, for a scant $23.99 U.S., you can buy a limited (one can only hope) edition corset for your inanimate piece of metal - or for an additional $8, you can pick up an Ed Norton-like undershirt. Now you can ask: does your Mp3 wear boxers or briefs - but surely a gentleman - even a blue metallic one - never tells.

Now why didn't I think of that? Fuck writing a bestselling novel - I could have stayed at home one weekend and stitched up a couple of Y-fronts and made my billion. But I didn't. Why? - because I'm not in the game, I don't have the edge. If you need further proof of the innovative genius which I clearly do not possess, take a shufti at the trailblazing design for the ghost costume from the 2005 Hallowe'en line, which retails for a mindboggling $39.99 (okay, it does come with a gravestone which "may vary from the photo"). Wow a sheet - that's thinking outside the box. Mock though I may, these couturiers of crap are evidence that if god exists, he is either a sadist, a trickster or a moron. I am a Salieri ("I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint") to their Mozart.

As it is, I feel like a complete turd because I haven't sprung for a jaunty French beret or a sexed-up merry widow for my Mp3 player; they deliver overseas after all.

I'm off to kill myself with something blunt.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Make the Cheque Payable To ...

Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi
Peshawar, Pakistan

Dear Mr. Cleric,

I understand that you have offered a bounty of $1 Million US, an additional $25,000 US and a new car, for the death of the infidel Danish cartoonist. Although I am unable to serve you his head on a platter (I'm really busy just now & don't have the time), the picture (below) should serve to bring about his speedy death. I understand that many of your followers have expressed a willingness to do so. I wish them luck.
As you can see, I have caught this devil red-handed.
In return, I ask for 50% of the cash value of your bounty, preferably in US dollars or, if not convenient, I will accept 9,148,943.09 Moroccan dirhams (based on today's exchange rate). You may keep the car.
Please make the cheque payable to Cat in Rabat. I would appreciate it if you would keep me in mind for any future fatwas you may wish to declare.

Until then, I remain
Your faithful servant,

C in R

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Rabat of Seville*

(Or a Long-winded Tale of Three Hair Cuts)

When it comes to their coiffures, long-haired women have laboured under the assumption that their short-tressed sisters have an easier time of it. I've heard it all: "the humidity is making my hair frizzy! You can just get up and go. I can't do anything with it. You don't know how lucky you are! " Not so - it does take effort to keep a short hair style looking decent and it starts with a good cut. If I have a bad hair day or I'm too lazy to wash my hair, I can't pull my hair back in a ponytail. I have no recourse to barrettes, scrunchies, clips and other such implementa. My hair is short & straight and a bad cut shows; in fact, I need to get it cut every 5 weeks so, on top of everything else, it aint' cheap. By week 6, my hair is anything but attractive.

So when I moved to Rabat 4 months ago, I was immediately obsessed with finding a good hairdresser. I had time - at least 5 weeks before I would start looking like David Spade, so I kept my eyes open. But I soon grew panicky: a quick persual down Fal Ould Omer (the main drag in Agdal which Chris calls Follow the Leader) and it becomes readily apparent that 99.9% of Moroccan women have long hair. I was racked with anxiety: in a land of Rapunzels, would hairdressers here have much experience cutting short hair? While I fretted, my hair began to grow. I walked by salons (there are approximately 726 salons in Agdal alone) and peered in, but I saw no one with short hair. Nor did their names inspire me with confidence; there was the Pretty Woman, the Aqua Belle, the Boom! Boom! and the Fitness Beauté. The latter sounded far too strenuous. Alas, my work was cut out for me. I began to ask around, albeit to the perfectly-coiffed long-haired ones about me. My hair began to grow longer. I became intimidated by the process. Even if I found a hairdresser, my high school French from 18 decades ago surprisingly would not equip me for "just a trim but could you thin it out on top, I want it above the ears, tapered at the back and could you use the #3 blade on the electric clippers?" I stalled. My hair continued to grow. Week 6 arrived and I began to bear an uncanny resemblance to Macaulay Culkin. David Spade was just days away.

Cut the First

Finally - joy of joys - Salon Abdou is recommended to me. I run to the salon which is situated conveniently near my house. I am greeted at the door by 3 women in white coats. As I ask for a rendez-vous, the boldest of the three, whom I will call the Appointment Bee, looks quizzically at my hair while maintaining a smile on her face that I can only describe as a rictus of forced politeness. I know that my hair looks bad but still. A couper? she asks. Yes, just a cut. Monsieur Abdou will take me in 10 minutes. M. Abdou is the only male in this hive of women - I count 7 worker bees, although he is the only one cutting hair. Soon I am called for the shampoo - a process in a Canadian salon which I equate with public sex. A good shampooer digs her nails hard (but not too hard - no need to draw blood) into your scalp and massages your head in the frothiness of a thick fruity shampoo. I will groan and writhe because it feels so damn good.

I am seated in the chair and the Shampoo Bee flips a switch and the chair converts into a Barka Lounger - an auspicious sign. I close my eyes in anticipation. Alas - it's a let down - no post-shampoo cigarette for me. There is no pummeling, no kneading - only a half-hearted attempt to work up a lather in tepid water. I am bored. I moan once to make the Shampoo Bee feel good, a pity groan to let her know that I'm in the moment. I write grocery lists in my head. She flips the switch and I am projected vertically. She wraps my head in a towel and walks away. Did I not groan enough? - have I offended her? But no, her job is done: a different worker bee escorts me to the cutting chair and removes the towel - this is the Towel Bee. Yet another worker bee, the Magazine Bee, brings me a magazine which I abandon in favour of the television monitor suspended in the corner - Shrek is playing in French. Then another worker bee, the Final Preparation Bee, comes over and combs my hair with a huge wide-toothed comb, succeeding in giving me that MacLauley Culkin-look after all. Now I am ready for monsieur.

M. Abdou - a scruffy & overweight version of French actor Jean Reno - finally appears. He asks me what style I want and, with great apprehension, I try, "Le même mais plus court" - which was about the best I could come up with. He nods. I sigh in relief although I wish he had seen my hair when it was dry, not slicked back like a freshly furrowed field. I close my eyes and let him cut. Halfway through the cut, yet another worker bee (perhaps I have underestimated them at 7 - clearly there are more), discreetly approaches him and, with a gentle *ahem*, finally manages to attract his attention. Servile Bee whispers in his ear some matter of great urgency. Her demeanour is one of perfect deference. I am awed. He disappears for a moment to attend to this matter (ah! - it is a telephone call) but returns to snip away at my head. He is a meticulous snipper and it takes over 30 minutes to cut my hair. But le voila! - he is done. To be fair he has done a very good job. I am pleased - no, relieved. He motions to the Big Brush bee who comes and brushes my neck and face. Then she swishes my hands, the webbing between the fingers, and then begins to clean minute hairs from my feet. Please don't clean my toes, I pray. She cleans my toes. The King Bee goops my hair in a rather startling but not totally unattractive manner which I will nonetheless wash out and restyle when I get home.

I step out into the bright sunlight awfully pleased with myself - this has been an achievement, I have made an important connection. I now have a good hairdresser. True, the experience was weird but such is the currency in Rabat for all things mundane at home.

Cut the Second

Five weeks fly by. I drop by the salon and make another appointment. This time I am greeted warmly by the Appointment Bee with the typical Moroccan limp handshake. Tomorrow? Yes, in sh'allah. I leave uneasy; I would prefer that she write the appointment in a book rather than leave it up to the will of a capricious god. No matter. Tomorrow comes & I return. I wait for over 20 minutes to be shampooed. Finally I am called and the same Bee routine is repeated, but with one exception: my head is shampooed for 25 minutes accompanied by another halfhearted limp massage. I time it. Frankly, I am concerned. Why won't the Shampoo Bee rinse my hair? Is there something covertly sexual about this? - is she making advances? Now I am cold -having lukewarm shampoo on your head for half an hour is a chilling business. Finally, she rinses me off & wraps me up, and the Towel Bee brings me to the cutting chair. The Magazine and Big Comb Bees all perform their various ministrations. No M. Abdou. I have now been in the salon for over 45 minutes without a glimpse of a pair of scissors. I have a Seinfeld flashback - the episode (the Alternate Side) with the rental car:

Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.

Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.

Agent: I know why we have reservations.

Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.

*Sigh* I want to go but I my plowed wet hair again makes me look like Macaulay Culkin. I am a hostage. Eventually the King Bee enters the salon through a back door. The attendant bees all buzz in a swarm of activity. He cuts my hair and I am satisfied - it is not as short as I would like but I am anxious to leave. Then he grabs the hair goop and begins to plaster my hair and play with it. I look like Don King. I am horrified but, I remind myself, this is nothing that I can't remedy at home.

Five weeks go by. I drop by to make another appointment, but the Appointment Bee & I cannot find a mutually convenient time. When I am free, M. Abdou isn't. Can I come at 6 p.m.? - no, I work then. She pouts; she cannot make an appointment more than 3 days ahead (perhaps because that's as much as she can commit to memory). I tell the Appointment Bee that I will return next week. This dance is repeated three times. M. Abdou apparently comes into the salon when he feels like it - which might explain my 25 minute shampoo. I am becoming less patient and more frantic. M. Abdou is not available between 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. I resolve to look elsewhere. I have passed Week 7.

Cut the Third

I hear of Creation Lahlou Jamal and, not surprisingly, it is close to my home. I drop by to make an appointment - there is a Stylist Bee (Monsieur Jamal?), many worker bees one of whom is male (!). The Appointment Bee suggests 10:00 but I ask for 1 p.m.. M. Jamal, offers up a gallic shrug which the Appointment Bee takes as acquiesence. I am encouraged because they write my name (albeit mispelled with 2 extra syllables including an additional y and 2 a's) and time in a book rather than leaving it up to the will of Allah. I return the next day. My appointment is confirmed and I take a seat. But what;s this? - there is no M. Abdou, there is only a Colourist Bee (his electric blue tunic is emblazoned with the moniker coloriste). He is applying paste to a 50-some year old woman, taking months off of her age. I wait and thumb through magazines and find a picture of what my hair would look like if I had access to a hairdresser every 5 weeks. There is an upper gallery at Creation Lahlou Jamal from which I am watched by a number of worker bees. Whenever I look up they smile and titter; one waves.

Ten minutes go by. Christ almighty, I think. There is no television monitor playing Shrek; rather the Colourist Bee is now regaling another worker bee with every fucking ringtone on his cell phone. I am about to ask the whereabouts of the elusive Stylist Bee when the Colourist Bee barks something at one of the worker bees in the gallery. She comes downstairs and asks if Name-Not-Understood Bee can cut my hair instead. Frustrated, but because looking like David Spade would now be an improvement, I agree. Worker Bee disappears and Name-Not-Understood Bee comes downstairs to greet me. She is a deadringer for one of the cleaning ladies at work. I look hard at her. I am sure that it is our cleaning lady. Nonetheless, I surrender my head to this woman, who I now realise is a Colourist Bee (she too is wearing a Coloriste electro-blue tunic). I am shampooed by Shampoo Bee in the same lacklustre fashion as my previous shampoos. But there is an economy of labour at Creation Lahlou Jamal: the Shampoo Bee actually puts a towel on my head and escorts me to the cutting chair, fulfilling the jobs of two bees at Salon Abdou.

Name-Not-Understood Bee is waiting for me; I show her the photograph. She nods and opens her personal case of scissors and paraphenalia that all cutters have, only to reveal one pair of scissors. I have a bad feeling about this. Then she removes the towel (herself!) and places what I can only describe as a heavy rubber car mat on my shoulders (to keep my cape from flying away?). I am confused. Am I getting x-rays? No matter, she begins to cut. In no time at all, she is finished. I am stunned - Name-Not-Understood Bee has given me the best haircut since my arrival in Rabat. I am delighted. I vow to return.

What I have learned:
1) At least 1 hairdresser & I colourist in Rabat can cut short hair.
2) It is wise to trust your appointment to an appointment book rather than to Allah.
3) Trusting your appointment to an appointment book is no guarantee that you have an appointment; ergo, Allah always has the last word - capricious gods always do.
4) The number of workers bees in a salon is inversely proportionate to the quality of your haircut.
5) A 15-year old kid back home could reorganize the salons here with a Hilroy notebook, a couple of Girl Guides and a wad of pink slips, and make them efficient, smooth-running & profitable (a variation on a theme).
6) Although there appears to be a King Bee Stylist in salons, the worker bees provide a better alternative to their masters.
7) Shampoo Bees must be re-trained. If I am not emotionally & physically drained after a shampoo, they are not doing their job properly.
7) Shrek loses a lot in translation.

I will return to Creations Lahlou Jamal in 5 weeks' time but I am not so naive as to actually believe that I will have a repeat experience - after all, my second visit to Salon Abdou was not successful; however, I have made a few mistakes myself. I should have asked Name-Not-Understood Bee what her name was, I should have torn the photo from the magazine to keep for possible future forays into other beehives, and I should have paid more attention in my high school French classes. Nonetheless, I have bought myself 5 weeks after which I'll hopefully be ushered into Creations Lahlou Jamal to Name-Not-Understood Bee crooning:

How doooo!
Welcome to my shop!
Let me cut your mop.
Let me shave your crop!
Daintily! Daint-i-ly!

* with apologies to Gioacchino Rossini & Chuck Jones

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Would You Like Wheat With That?

Now, I have never been a McDonald's fan so I'm going to try really hard to temper this post with as much fairness and objectivity as I can muster. Like many, I feel that McDonald's gift to the world has been clean washrooms (pace green Shamrock shakes). There is a Micky D's close to home (currently featuring a McArabia sandwich which, as far as I can tell, is a burger in a pita) and I confess that I've been in there about 5 times in the last 4 1/2 months - mainly during Ramadan when I was really desperate. As a vegetarian in the Land of Meat, my options in Moroccan franchises are a salad & a sundae. As we all know, McDonald's adds "natural" (oh eyah! - it's at least natural) meat flavour to their fries.

So when the whole transfat (the widespread use of partial hydrogenated oils in the processed food industry) hit the fan, and we all went scrambling to our cupboards to toss out our microwave popcorn and soda crackers, it came to most of us as no suprise that the fast food industry was one of the biggest culprits of delivering this sludge to our bodies. The more enlightened countries around us banned the goop, such as Denmark, while Canada (in a typically Canadian move) established a task force to consider a ban. McDonald’s announced in 2002 that it was voluntarily changing to a healthier cooking oil with less trans fat. And did it? Aparently it experienced "operational issues" - which probably included the fact that they were loathe to alter the flavour of a product that most children under the age of 17 are physicaly addicted to - and the oil was not changed. Lawsuits were filed, settlements made.
Enough with the preamble - so now what? Because the FDA now requires that potential allergens be disclosed, Micky D's has a confession. Remember those gluten-free fries? "Not long after disclosing that its french fries contain more trans fat than thought, McDonald's Corp. said Monday that wheat and dairy ingredients are used to flavor the popular menu item -- an acknowledgment it had not previously made."

I went to their website and found:

French Fries:
Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor (beef, wheat and dairy sources), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (to preserve natural color). Breading set in vegetable oil. Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). Contains wheat and milk ingredients.

Oh sweet Jesus. Gluten? Dairy? - in a french fry, or more specifically, in its cooking oil? McDonald's is quick to point out that they have been aware of these additives for quite some time but that they are present in the oil, not in the protein component of the food product. "Technically there are no allergens in there". Phew! - I feel better! And do I draw any solace from the fact that McDonald's - that avatar of healthy food - considers these additives safe to eat even though millions suffer from severe allergies to these products. In fact, it adds that "those who have eaten the product without problem should be able to continue to do so without incident". Are they kidding? Why not address the fact that they have been willfully deceiving its clientele with this loaded gun for years? Why not address the fact that many of us don't want to consume dairy or gluten - not because of allergies - but because we just don't want to? Why not address the fact that their food isn't food?

I must confess that this makes me really angry, not only because I now feel compelled to never ever step foot in another McDonald's. So long caramel sundaes (aka: whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, high fructose corn syrup, water, butter, sugar, salt, disodium phosphate, pectin, salt, potassium sorbate as a preservative, artificial flavors [vanillin, ethyl vanillin]). I actually had hoped that McDonald's had learned their lesson when caught grilling veggie burgers along side their meat patties. Hope everyone is having a hearty laugh at my expense because I deserve it. Because I know that it's cheaper to deal with a lawsuit than change a product. So when McDonald's says (as on their Canadian website): " At McDonald's we are committed to providing you with easy to understand, accessible information on our food," they're hoping that you won't be bothered - because you may not like what you see.

Too bad there isn't a Harvey's in Morocco - they cook their fries in hydrogenated canola oil. No beef. No Wheat. No Dairy. And I could get a veggie burger too.

Why Can't Moroccans Play Hockey?

I can just hear the jokes now ....

Why can't Moroccans play hockey?
Because every time they go into a corner, they open a hanoot.

... but they at least made it onto the scoreboard this time! Nor can the Rabat Capitals play the weather card again because the -8 C° temperatures didn't seem to hamper those ice-loving Mexicans from squeaking by with a 12-1 victory. So it's back to the Mega Mall for our gay blades where they can nurse their 0 & 2 record over a nice Coca Light. You have all summer to practice and maybe next season - if you're lucky - Algeria will have a national team too. In the meantime, keep your sticks on the ice.

p.s. Yes, a hanoot is a convenience store & it was a cheap shot. I hang my head in shame. But I could have just as easily made it a telephone boutique.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

As an Atheist, Should I Be Offended?

This blatant omission is an affront to atheism. God does not exist, but we do. I demand an apology!

Monday, February 13, 2006

And the Crowd Goes Wild!

This posting's title will mean absolutely nothing to anyone in the world with the exception of Mr. Cat in Rabat & Brother of Cat in Rabat, who will also know that the quotation in its entirety is, "And the crowd went wild, arrrrrrrrrrrrrhh!" The arrrrrrrrrrrrrhh was my Dad's replication of the raucous frenzy of a hockey crowd. An addled preamble, I know.

So hockey fever has hit Morocco. Or no, it hasn't. But it should be: Morocco has its first ever hockey team - yes, a hockey team! This is exciting news, eh? But it's hard to imagine Moroccans talking about any sport besides football, and true to form, they aren't. In fact, I asked about a dozen and a half people on Saturday about the Olympic games and the unanimous response was the final score of the African Cup of Nations match held on Friday. Now my French isn't very magnifique but I think I'm pretty capable of ennunciating les jeux olympiques so as not to be confused with the le coupe africaine des nations. Really. Hein, peut-être non (she says with a Gallic shrug).

But I digress.

Less than a month ago (on Dad's birthday, in fact), club president Mimoun Lamrini annnounced the birth of North Africa's first ice hockey club, the Rabat Capitals, whose home ice would be the new rink at the Mega Mall (ooooh, shades of the Edmonton Oilers & the West Edmonton Mall - certainly an auspicious sign). Mr. Lamrini goes on to say that "the goal of the ice hockey team is to eventually play against foreign teams." Probably a wise plan as I don't anticipate a host of intramural teams popping up around Morocco - the Casablanca Voyageurs, the Ad-Dakha Dunes, the Tangier Titans, the Kenitra Camels ... oh the possibilities are endless. Nor is the NHL ready for an expansion team such as the Berber Bruins (except maybe in the Southeastern division of the Eastern Conference because who gives a rat's ass about any of those teams?). According to this press release, the Capitals would have its first foreign experience on February 8th, testing the ice at an international tournament in Quebec City. If I could get more than 1 channel on my television set, I would have tuned in with great anticipation, for surely it was televised.

I must confess that I was really tickled over the thought of a Moroccan hockey team - it sort of ranks up there with the inclusion of the Jamaican bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in '88. But this is big - or should be - because it's the first time an African or Muslim team has competed in a hockey tournament. Incidently, there is a newly founded Algerian Ice Hockey Association whose website concedes that "Algerian (sic) does not currently have an ice rink, but for many of us there is a dream of having an Algerian national team, and with a safer Algeria now getting foreign investment and development, hopefully Algeria will follow Morocco's lead and build a rink." Well rock on, guys! If you build it, they will come and Morocco is right next door.

So the 8th of February came and went and I could find nothing in the press. Nothing. I googled and I yahooed but I couldn't find a thing. Finally Chris pulled up the stats board for the Quebec International Hockey Pee-Wee Tournament and found that the Caps are grouped in International Class "C", along with teams ranging from the exotic (Grenoble, Finland - phew! not Denmark - and Mexico) to the not-so exotic but asskicking (Matapédia, Rouyn-Naranda & the Baie-de-Chaleurs).

So how did the Caps do? Well, it wasn't pretty, but shutouts seldom are. Imagine David & Goliath but where Goliath wins. The Mulhouse Scorpions (the French champions no less) edged them by a negligible 13 goals. But if you put it in perspective, it was only marginally worse than the thrashing that the Canadian Women's Olympic hockey team served to Russia (12-0) but not as embarassing as the Canuck's pummeling over the Italians (16-0) the day before (the ladies were probably a bit tired). Besides, there is much to forgive the team for, and the fact that Quebec is some 30 degrees celcius colder than Rabat right now couldn't have helped much. So the Caps should hold their heads up high - there will be other games. I might even haul my ass down to the Mega Mall and cheer them on - after I have a café au lait, a pain au chocolate, and buy a new pair of sandals.

Rabat plays their next game against Mexico on Wednesday, February 15th. Bookmark this blog Caps fans ... the results will be here first!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Voice in the Wilderness

Oh thank the-god-of-your-choice!!!! - a rational, cogent, insightful and (gasp!!) humourous response to this whole Danish debacle.

So click here for Christ's sake!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Thousand Words & Counting

Enough said.
Can we move on now?

(many shukrans to Michael DeAdder of the Halifax Daily News)

Friday, February 10, 2006

What Toronto Can Learn from Morocco

In the realm of 'gracefully accepting defeat', members of government have demanded a parliamentary inquiry into Morocco's less than stellar performance at the 25th African Nations Cup held in Egypt - the final game is this evening and, guess what? - Morocco isn't in it. In fact, their best showing was a tie and even that little gem was a 0-0 showing. The press has called the team's performance "scandalous" - a word I would use to decry various government debacles & wrongdoings but perhaps there are none here. Can't waste a good word after all.

Now, I hail from a country which excels in parliamentary inquiries; since 1867 (the year of Canada's confederation), we have had a mind-numbing number of Royal Commissions, Task Forces, and Commission Inquiries, on everything from the Future of Health Care (I think they're for it) to the Task Force on TransFat (I think they're against it). Some of our commissions have outraged us (see the ongoing inquiry into the Moher Arar case, the Canadian who was "repatriated" to Syria by the US and brutually tortured); others have passed by without notice. Canadians like to navel-gaze a bit when pondering lofty thoughts such as "What is a Canadian" and "How are We Distinct from Americans?". Personally, I think that our propensity to call commissions/task forces/inquiries at the drop of a hat should be tacked up there with our other culture-defining criteria : politeness, the letter "zed", and a fondness for tree sap.

In spite of this national proclivity to peer very very closely at things at the onerous expense of Canadian taxpayers, I don't recall an inquiry into the loss of a sporting team - doping yes, but losing, no. Perhaps the city of Toronto might like to request an inquiry into the seemingly inexhaustive consecutive losses of its beloved Maple Leafs; in truth, they have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. Bit of a dry spell. eh? My own dear husband, whom I magnanimously forgive for cheering for the said Leafs (not Leaves), was not even conceived when they won their last hockey championship. In fact, if I were Queen of the Universe, he would leave the Dark Side and start rooting for the Montreal Canadiens, the "winning-est" hockey team in history and a team, I might add, who knows how to pluralise nouns correctly.

So Toronto - look at your sporting brothers across the Atlantic and follow suit: launch a commission and find that scapegoat! Morocco may not be in this evening's final but they can find solace by fingerpointing!

In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that Monteal beat Buffalo last night in overtime. Go Habs Go!

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The (Almost) Dead Letter Office

Imagine my delight yesterday when I thrust my hand into my nonsecure mailbox and pulled out mail. Well, not mail exactly but close enough: a flyer. Since my arrival in Rabat, I have received exactly 4 pieces of bona fide mail, with the exception of my electric bill which confirms in my mind that the Utilities company is my most ardent admirer. The flyer was kindly deposited in my box by the AFI, roughly translated as the Institute of Womanly Arts, and advised me that pastry-making "will no longer be a mystery" to me. Wow - was I tempted, or what? As much as I wanted to be initiated into the arcane arts of soufflés, petit fours and 'salty' cakes - after all, they did offer flexible hours and a certificate - this glossy little flyer ultimately joined my used teabags in the kitchen wastebasket. But it did get me thinking about the one and only trip I made to the central post office last week.

My husband had sent me a small package which included a yoga ball, a DVD and a crapload of M & M's (these items are not mutually exclusive as the M & M's were 'minis' and therefore contained neither calories nor fat). I received my pick-up notice a scant 3 1/2 weeks after the package was mailed from the central sorting station of all of Atlantic Canada to the capital of this country. With much anticipation, I nipped up to the neighbourhood post office only to be told that it was in Centre Ville, downtown. So the next day, I cabbed it downtown with a colleague, my moral support and sister-in-arms who has vast experience dealing with the post office as she has received 2 - count 'em 2!!! - parcels (hopefully my friends & family are reading this).

Because of Experienced Colleague's aforesaid experience, she pushes me through the small group of people assembled at the counter and I thrust my notice at the woman sitting at a computer. The process (in theory) is this:
1) Helpful Receptionist takes notice and gives it to Speedy Parcel Retriever
2) Speedy Parcel Retriever retrieves said parcel from the back room and places it on inspection table for Efficient Inspector
3) Efficient Inspector opens box, confirms that it contains no AK-74 assault rifles, then quickly finds a copy of the delivery notice from a large archaic file on his desk and then forwards everything to Helpful Receptionist
4) Helpful Receptionist officially signs out the parcel with her computerised scanning system.

It is probably completely unnecessary for me to say that none of this actually transpires. In reality, when I push my notice towards the Helpful Receptionist, she moves it to the side of her desk with as little effort as possible, so as not to interrupt the conversation she was having with another staff member. What where they talking about? - I would hazard to guess (based on their conspiratorial laughter and knowing glances) that it was not related to Matters Postal. Meanwhile, what appears to be several Speedy Parcel Retrievers shuffle back and forth, chatting, taking orders for coffee, and probably offering to car pool kids or pick up dry cleaning. Meanwhile, other pick-up notices are added to mine - this not unsubstantial pile of paper is completely unnoticed by those who are paid to notice them. Then a new female customer approaches the desk - oh wonderful, she is the Helpful Receptionist's friend! - there is much kissing over the counter and I think, this will be yet another long drawn-out conversation, but no! - Helpful Receptionist takes her friend's notice with surprising alacrity and barks something at one of the Speedy Parcel Retrievers. Poof! her parcel appears. Poof! she is gone.

I am impotent, as are the 2 men ahead of me. We are not Helpful Receptionist's friends. With little to do (her friend is happily long gone), Helpful Receptionist begins to chew her nails, profoundly inspecting them between nibbles. Do you want a fucking magazine? I scream. Well, not scream actually - more like think to myself but in a very angry tone. Eventually, a Speedy Parcel Retriever picks up the leaning pile of notices and disappears into a back room. He returns to the main foyer several times without a parcel or my parcel, but eventually he does. My parcel is placed on the inspection table and I wait. The Efficient Inspector is inspecting another parcel. It is causing him some confusion as the box, a slapped-up cardboard contraption held together with masking tape & bits of string, appears to contain that elusive AK-74. But the Efficient Inspector is satisfied that it is only a golf club, so he moves on to my diminutive parcel. He struggles with the freakishly-strong staples and finally rips apart the padded envelope, sending forth a cloud of padded stuffing. With a manner suggestive of cleaning out a cat's litter box, he daintily pulled out its contents: the DVD, deflated yoga ball and M &M's. The rubber yoga ball causes him the most consternation. He asks what it is and Experienced Colleague and I answer in unison, "C'est un bal," for such is the excellence of our French. Deciding that he had bigger fish to fry (a juicy parcel next to mine was awaiting him, which clearly held TV remote-controlled explosive devices), he pushes my package aside and, I must say, finds my notice in his file quite quickly.

The parcel and chit are returned to my good friend, the Helpful Receptionist. Hoping that she will scan the parcel out on her computer so I can leave, she instead reaffirms the inscrutability of the post office by grabbing a dusty tome of a register and labouriously enters the details of my parcel into it. So what exactly is the computer there for? - to play Spider Solitaire during off-hours? - silly me, there are no off-hours, are there?Finally, the parcel (opened with its contents hanging out like a disemboweled prisoner) is mine.

The process took 35 minutes.

This is what I know:
1) I am lucky that my parcel even arrived
2) I am equally lucky that my parcel had not been opened beforehand and its contents pilfered
3) I am luckier still that the Speedy Parcel Retriever was on duty - if it is Friday then he will be at prayer for most of the day.
4) I should be thanking my lucky stars that I only waited 35 minutes
5) 7 Moroccan postal employees are doing the job of 1 person
6) a 15-year old kid back home could reorganize the post office here with a Toshiba laptop and a couple of Girl Guides and make it an efficient, smooth-running & profitable operation
7) even stale M&M's kick ass.

But, in the end I got the parcel. Experienced Colleague's presence was key to my retaining any semblance of sanity that morning. To kill time and to somehow make sense of this inane process, we maintained a running commentary, talking a jumper down. We were the Howard Cosells of the post office.

... a week later, I have yet to blow up my yoga ball. I think that'll necessitate a trip to the gas station in order to use their air hose. Frankly, I'm not ready for that.

Addendum: Mr. Cat in Rabat appeared to be rather horrified that I had not yet inflated the yoga ball so I bought a pump from a sporting goods store and inflated the damn thing. There! - I hope you're happy!

Sunday, February 5, 2006

On Roman Auguries & Moroccan Egrets

Those clever Romans of yester-millenia used to routinely perform auguries - the act of identifying and interpreting signs (auspices) from the gods as evidenced through the flight patterns or calls of birds - when a question needed answering or approval sought. "Do I really need a new toga?" - let's see what Mr. Owl has to say. The magistrate or auspex, from which we get the words "auspicious" and "inauspicious" (and they said Latin would be useless - that was for you Dad!) would set the parameters of that day's birdwatch (dilineating the sky with his magic wand) while the auger did the actually interpreting. I'm hoping that I don't have to tell you what words we derive from auger. Anyway, they also indulged in haruspicy by which animals were sacrificed for the expressed act of having their entrails (usually the liver) prodded and peered at. Luckily in Morocco, these 2 ancient and seemingly defunct practices have been combined in time: birds are falling out of the sky.

Yes, over 300 cattle egrets were found dead a few days ago in the area of Lake Daït Roumi (east of Rabat), attributable says the High Commissioner for Waters, Forests and the Fight against Desertifcation to "collective intoxification". Collective intoxication - an interesting phrase, no? It smacks, if not of consent on the part of the birds, then some level of informed consent. As if 336 egrets chose Lake Daït - an otherwise "haven of peace & transquility" as guidebooks rhapsodise - as their personal shooting gallery and all accidently OD'd. Did I mention that over half of them were found in a public dump? And of course there was that nasty incident 2 weeks ago when 120 plowing birds went tits-up in the same area and, needless to say, no explanation has yet been offered for this apparent mass suicide. Shades of Jim Jones? Unlikely.

The Arabic daily Al-Bayane has suggested that insecticide poisoning, bird flu infection, or possibly a ferocious cold snap killed the plowing birds. Strange, as we experienced rather warm weather last week. As for the egrets, authorities are positing death by mass poisoning (pesticides & phytosanitary products). Phew! - at least it isn't bird flu! - I should feel better, right? Aviary flu has not even been officially whispered in connection with these birds, although "tests" are being conducted by some government haruspex and the results should be available in a few days.

Concerned? Kinda. Morocco, home to over 460 species of birds, is a veritable eden for bird-watchers and a much-welcomed layover for migratory birds - oh yeah, and people live here too. Whatever the results of the tests are (assuming that authorities don't come up with a giant goose egg), the signs aren't very good - the death of over 450 birds within 2 weeks does not auger well. The gods are clearly pissed.

Friday, February 3, 2006

An Open Letter to King Mohammed VI: Boycotts is So Stupid!

Dear King Mohammed VI:
Hi. How are you? I understand Sudan has recently joined the growing legion of Arab countries to boycott all things Danish. I'm not certain how many Danish items are available in Sudan; during my last visit to Khartoum, I didn't see a whole lot of Carlsberg for sale. Or maybe Sudan has chosen to ban the importation of insulin, as Denmark produces over half the world's supply. That would suck if you were a diabetic. Did the Sudanese toss their Lego sets into bonfires at the confluence of the Blue & White Niles? - I hope not. The Indiana Jones Lego sets were especially cool. Now I appreciate the fact that Muslims worldwide are miffed over the "Mohammed cartoon". Personally, when I saw it, I laughed but I find humour in jibes at Christ as well. My brother Frank may well remember a personal favourite of mine entitled "Jesus Changes Water into Urine". But did the Arab world boycott Warner Brothers and issue death threats against Chuck Jones because of "Sahara Hare"? Did camels the world over bristle over Sahara Sam's observation that "camels is so stupid". Well maybe. Or maybe they laughed. Laughing can be - er, fun. And to paraphrase our bedouin friend, "boycotts is so stupid."

Today Moroccans will be marching on Parliament in Rabat and engage in a sit-in-demonstration. I support their right to do so just as I support the France Soir's decision to use the headline "we have the right to caricature God". But I ask, no I beg you not to boycott Danish goods. Boycotts don't work. John Lennon's comments about the Beatle's popularity being greater than that of Jesus Christ didn't seem to hurt record sales. Why? .... because boycotts don't work (bears repeating).

Denmark's sales to the whole of Africa account for less that € 5 million a year - a pittance compared to the almost €400 million it accrues from trade within Europe. Kinda negligible.

Boycotting the producers of Kinder Surprises (although otherwise laudable) will have zero impact on the Danish cartoonist and publisher who printed the cartoon.

The violence of Muslim's reaction (and subsequent boycotting) entrenches stereotypes that Muslims are reactionary wingnuts. As Tarek Fatah, a director of the Muslim Canadian Congress, observed, " The protests in the Middle East have proven that the cartoonist was right."

Here's another thought: let Mohammed fight his own battles. I bet he could smite those Danes if he really wanted to. But let him do it. We have killed too many men, women, and children in the name of god for far too long. How long: since Christ wore kneepants, as Dad used to say. Jeez, should I have boycotted my father for slurs against Christianity?

Now that I've attempted to present a rational argument against boycotting Danish goods, let me reveal my not-very hidden agenda: Danish Blue .... oh yum! I love Danish blue cheese. I'm a vegetarian in a land bereft of tasty alternatives and options for me. Can't find tofu, seitan - not that I expected to, but still. So I have had to compromise my otherwise vegan diet to allow for dairy. A cheese sandwich and a veggie pizza are my 2 sole dining options in Rabat's restaurants so I didn't have much of a choice. This was ethically a difficult choice but an easy one gastronomically-speaking. I love cheese. And yes, cow and goat's cheese is a tad tastier than rice cheese. Do you really want to deprive a guest to your country of a valuable source of calcium & protein? I didn't think so. In response to your attention to this little matter, I will attempt to keep my references to you & your jet-ski to a minimum. Or if you must show solidarity with your Muslim brethern, could you boycott selectively? Maybe ban teak furniture and salad bowl sets but leave me those little buttery pretzel-shaped cookies ... and the cheese?

Say hi to Princess Lalla Salma (I bet she'd agree with me).

Sincerely Yours,
Cat in Rabat

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Walking Past an Outdoor Café: A Moroccan Haiku

Men in café: No,
I don't want to have sex with you.
Problem must be mine

God Wars

Phew! Good thing I didn't put "Christian Missionary" on my carte de sejour application ....

Imperial Stormstroopers in Marrakech have recently seized documents in the apartment of an "alleged" foreign missionary that may confirm the existence of a clandestine Christian organization whose nefarious mandate is to convert god-fearing Muslims into god-fearing Christians. Need I add that the said "alleged" missionary - upon hearing that 2 security agents were en route to "question him" - pulled a 'Keyser Soze' and vanished. Neighbours told the Imperial Stormtroopers that Moroccans regularly visited the household and apparently, not just for mint tea.

Although freedom of religion is espoused in Morocco, those who attempt to convert (officially referred to as seduction - pretty sexy, eh?) a Moroccan to any religion from Islam are subject to a fine &/or a prison sentence. I guess you can have your god as long as you don't talk about him (or her).