Raising Children in Morocco

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Date: 6-5-08
To: Julie Pennington
Subject: Family Life in Morocco Memo

You will soon be embarking on a five year business contract to open a branch of Lazlo’s in Casablanca, Morocco. I understand that you have all the information you need about Morocco’s economy, business environment and your target audience. I also understand that you will be taking your husband and 4 children along with you, so there are some important facts I thought you should know about Moroccan culture prior to your departure. In order to minimize the degree of culture shock occurring to you and your family, you should have an understanding about the family life and parental ethics in Muslim cultures. There are some characteristics that I’m sure you’ll find very different from the values and culture here in Lincoln, Nebraska. We learned in my International Marketing class recently that Christianity and Islam are the two most similar religions in the world. Although they are similar, there are still several significant differences to be aware of when raising children in the United States or Morocco, due to the differences in Muslim and Christian values practiced in each of these countries, respectively. Two of the biggest differences are the differential gender treatment and the religious practices and beliefs instilled in children at a very young age. Religious beliefs have a significant impact on parenting techniques, for example differential treatment between the sexes.

In Muslim culture, boys are girls are treated unequally. This is surprisingly because in the book of Islamic religion called the Holy Qu’ran, it refers to the male and female as equals. The Qu’ran states specifically that, “Islam is very clear on issues of equality between men and women,” and that “Allah has created men and women from the same source, and that they are equal partners who complement each other so that happy life is unimaginable for one of them without the other.” (Sabbah, Hilda. “Gender Issues in Islamic Schools.”)

It’s important to be aware that despite these equality statements in the Holy Qu’ran and contrary to the spirit of Islamic religion, males still tend to be favored to females in Muslim culture. The way Muslim women are treated is not paralleled to the teachings of the Qu’ran. It is believed “culture as well as man-made rules and interpretations of Islamic teachings” have created this differential gender treatment that is so prevelant today. (Hussain, Mohammed Dr. “Gender Inequality Not Found in Qu’ran.”)

This gender bias is non-apparent during the child’s first two years of life. During infancy, male and female babies are treated fairly equally. All babies are breast fed until they reach the age of two. It is believed that after a child is weaned from his or her mother, they will be aware of the true hardships that exist in the world. This is referred to as “gytar” in Arabic.

In American culture, is considered polite and sometimes expected to compliment a baby when you meet one. In Morocco however, this does not occur. The Moroccans consider it impolite to compliment or admire another person’s baby. It is in fact rude and offensive to comment that a baby is “adorable” or “beautiful.” If you say this to a Muslim woman, it is likely that she will become defensive and respond by saying pointing out the baby’s flaws, such as wrinkles or excess weight on the baby. When this happens, it is best to agree with the mother and comment that yes, in fact the baby in rather un-beautiful.

Another difference between American and Muslim parenting during infancy, is the way mothers tend to interact with their children while they socialize. In the United States, it is encouraged for a woman to place her baby as her highest priority. This means that in social situations, the mother is usually carrying her baby in her arms and coaxing the child to be calm if they are acting irritable. In Muslim culture however, when a mother is...
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