Morocco's King Mohammed poses with Moroccan officers during his visit to the military field hospital at the Al Zaatri refugee camp, in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Oct. 18, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Majed Jaber)

Royal Hand-Kissing Should Stop

Author: TelQuel (Morocco) Posted January 25, 2013

We return this week to royal hand-kissing with a clearer position than ever: stop; baraka; enough! As you can read elsewhere in TelQuelwe have attempted to understand the gesture's nature, its meaning and its history. We have asked researchers and specialists on political formalities. We also talked to men of faith.

SummaryPrint Despite reform measures taken by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the custom of kissing the hand of the king persists — something Karim Boukhari argues goes against the idea of human equality.
Author Karim Boukhari Posted January 25, 2013
Translator(s)Anthony Goode

In short, we examined the political, historical and sociological significance of the ritual. Our research shows that this “gesture,” deeply rooted in relations between the people and the monarchy, is above all a mark of respect (for the monarch) and an honor (for whoever kisses his hand). This is perfectly obvious.

But we would be wrong to stop there. This sort of normative analysis poses a severe handicap: it is frozen in time. When hand-kissing began, with its many meanings, the world was still feudal. The notion of equality among men did not exist. Communicating and fighting for the idea of a country or sovereign state was regarded as heresy in Morocco, which was an aggregation of tribes who swore allegiance to a lord, the king, who ruled over the bled al-makhzen and tried on multiple occasions to pacify the bled al-siba

Hand-kissing is a brutal gesture that corresponded to a world in a state of perpetual war. Sociologically, it consecrated the principle of the subservience of an enslaved population and the deification of their master-protectors. This world, fortunately, no longer exists.

To continue legitimizing this act, which is directly linked to prehistory, threatens to catapult us backwards into pre-civilization.

Of all the Arab heads of state, kings and presidents, King Mohammed is the only one who continues the tradition of hand-kissing. This single quirk has made Morocco and Moroccans a laughing stock among their fellow Arabs, who themselves are not exactly models of emancipation. This rule, this exception, does a disservice to the monarch himself. How can he play the “cool attitude” card and act like a citizen-king, while people bow down to him and his family when they pass by?

Who is still able to accept this? The Cartesian mentality, which embraces images and symbols, is not the only one that rejects such an archaic act. Men of religion also reject it, for they know that submitting and prostration are only acceptable before God.

At the beginning of his rule, King Mohammed was smart enough to bring his wife out of the darkness. Instead of a mother of princes — an invisible, faceless matron with a limited identity — the king’s wife has become a woman, a queen whom people call by her own name. She has a proper life and normal activities, like participating in roundtables or walking through Jamaa el-Fnaa square. This move has shattered a centuries-old “tradition” that was also loved by some who had tried to convince society of its importance and to force us to accept it.

King Mohammed gave his wife a face and a name. It was a simple gesture that contributed enormously to the idea of equality between men and women — a gesture, I repeat, that greatly displeased the temple guards and conservative circles. The question of hand-kissing today presents the same sort of pomp and circumstance.

The ritual must be done away with. No offense is meant to those traditionalists who don't yet understand that in the 21st century, it is impossible to believe in human equality while citizens throw themselves to kiss the head of state's hand.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2013/01/morocco-royal-hand-kissing.html

Published Casablanca, Morocco Established 2001
Language French Frequency weekly

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