Mohammed V who was born in 10 August 1909 and died on 26 February 1961 was Sultan and king of Morocco. His full name was Sidi Mohammed ben Yusef. He was the son of Yusef, upon whose death he succeeded. Born at Rabat in Morrocco, Mohammed V was a staunch Muslim and a respected member of the Alaouite Dynasty. At one point, Mohammed V and his family went to exile. He then returned from exile and again, he was recognized as a Sultan.
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Morality and religion as exemplified by Mohammed V
Mohammed V was a staunch Muslim. Regardless of his religion, he recognized non-Jew who risked his life to rescue the Jews found in Arab countries during the World War Two. The leaders in Morocco especially Vichy based their anti- Jew laws on racial differences. They believed that the laws would be administered according to how much Jewish blood a person had. Mohammed V view felt that the basis of any laws would rather be based on religion that one professed Jewish, Christian or Muslim. He believed that the basis used by Vichy violated a vital section of Islam, which welcomed converts as members of their faith. They were equal members in status with other Muslims.
Mohammad V believed in God and believed that all were equal in the eyes of God. He made sure that Jews in Morocco would be defined by religious affiliation, not by racial differences or parentage. Vichy’s laws declared people Jewish if their parents were Jewish, regardless of the religion that they professed.
Vichy laws required the Jews to turn in their assets to conservators who would manage their property affairs in trust. In reality, they planned to take advantage of the Jewish community and make massive profits for themselves. The religious leaders requested all Muslim of true faith to refuse this exploitative offer. They even forbid Muslims from buying Jewish goods that would be auctioned below the market price. They all hid the Imam’s calling, and they did not accept the offer of exploiting the Jewish people.
The idea of resistance as portrayed by Mohammad V
Mohammed V rejected orders set out by Vichy’s government. Privately, Mohammed V offered immense moral support to the Jews when they faced harassment and cruelty from the French. One remarkable thing that he did was sneaking in some prominent Jews into the palace so he could meet them away from the French. The French had ordered a census of total Jewish- owned property in the country; the Jewish feared this would result into a confiscation. When Mohammed met with them in secret, he promised to protect them and explained to them that their property was not about to be seized. After the Anglo American invasion in Morocco, Mohammed planned the destruction of the census papers.
The Sultan also made public remarks in support of his Jewish subjects. This spoiled his reputation in the Vichy’s government. At one Throne Day celebrations, in the presence of influential people of Morocco and Vichy’s officialdom, Mohammed V made a point of welcoming the Jewish leaders in attendance. He said that just like in the past the Israelites would remain under his protection. This he said without fear or favor, and he said it loud enough for Vichy officials to hear. It was clear; he would not distinguish between his subjects the way other government officials did.
When the Vichy government extended its anti Jewish laws to the country of Morocco in the year 1940, the king worked towards limiting their implementation. A telegram sent from the French foreign ministry discussed the increasing tension between the French people and the ruling king because of Mohammed V’s resistance. It claimed that Mohammed V was not willing to distinguish among his subjects. Some Moroccan Jews claim that Mohammed V even asked the French to bring him the famous yellow stars to be worn by his family (Satloff, p. 103).
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Lessons drawn from the book
All people should be treated the same regardless of their race- One of the greatest justification on racism is the belief that people have evolved separately. Thus, various groups of people are at different stages of evolution. This makes some groups view others as inferior. Some people seem to think that people of a ‘certain’ skin color are inferior. This is racism thinking and should be eliminated within communities, since all of us are equal in God’s eyes.
Religion goes with morality- People who proclaim a religion should have actions that rhyme with the teachings of that religion. Vichy laws did not work according to the teachings of the Church leaders. The Islam taught its members that all converts should be viewed as full members of the Muslim community. They were equal in status with other Muslims. Vichy anti Jewish law was discriminative in nature. This shows the goodness of a country that follows the beneficial laws as proclaimed by the religion.
People should always care for the less privileged in the society, Mohammed V is an excellent example with this quality. The Jewish people of Morocco were harassed and exploited by the French people. Mohammed V came to their rescue even when it affected his reputation since he was the Sultan. He helped them at a point when they had no hope left. He gave them moral support throughout his reign (Satloff, p. 82).
There should be fair division of resources in a country. Jews were deprived of property, education, citizenship, livelihood and residence. They had forced labor, property confiscation and constant harassment. Most of them lost jobs, agricultural lands, savings and years of education. During Vichy’s government, the church leaders requested the Arabs not to exploit the Jewish people. There was a plan to take Jewish property, but this did not happen. In addition, Mohammed V made sure that they had equal rights to property ownership and education.
Leaders should serve their subjects without fear or favor. This can be demonstrated by Mohammed V’s work as a Sultan during his reign. He was people’s servant unlike the other leaders of the time who viewed their subjects as low level human beings. They only got concerned about their wealth and making profits other than serving the people of Morocco. A true leader should display integrity and sincerity in his actions since deceptive nature will lead to mistrust by his subjects.
The greatest lesson learnt from this book is that not all leaders/ people are the same. It is not right to generalize when it comes to how wonderful/ unscrupulous people are. In Morocco, there were many Arabs who harassed the Jews, but in the same place, there were a handful of Arabs who were saving the Jews. Jewish community in Arab lands suffered deportations, arrests, confiscations, harassment and forced labor. In the same place, we find stories of ‘righteous’ Arabs who were reaching out to protect them. Did any Arabs save Jews during the holocaust? This is the main question that Robert Satloff wanted to answer when he researched on this issue. He shows clearly that not all Arabs were inhuman and heartless. Mohammed V seems to be portrayed as a supporter and savior of the Jews.
Satloff, Robert. Among the righteous. Lost stories from the Holocaust’s long reach into Arab’s land. New York: PublicAffairs, 2006. Print.