It’s about time we discussed the elephant in the room.
In the past, we touched upon the Algeria/Morocco tensions without clearly addressing the core element of that conflict: The dispute over Western Sahara sovereignty. Now more than ever, this discussion is important as more and more countries side with the Moroccan Kingdom on the issue.
Before we get started, I would like to make a quick disclaimer.
Peace and unity among Muslims are a top priority. That’s why my goal in writing this article is not to fuel the conflict between Algeria and Morocco, but to provide an analysis which may help to contextualize and make sense of a debate filled with emotion. As an observer, I should clarify that I am not neutral. I am unapologetically supporting Morocco in this affair because for me – as I shall demonstrate – a Moroccan Western Sahara is the best option for the Ummah at large, and I think that all traditional Muslims should favor it.
I also admire the resistance Morocco displays against the West in this particular case, and it gives me hope for the future of Islam. For a country like Morocco, which lost many battles against the Liberal World Order, it is comforting to see a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.
A Brief History of the Sahara
Western Sahara, in addition to Mauritania and some parts of Algeria’s territory, was originally a part of the Moroccan Kingdom. It officially belonged to the Alawi Dynasty – the same dynasty that currently rules over Morocco, and also one of the oldest kingdoms in the world.
Unfortunately, in 1885, the Western colonial powers held the conference of Berlin and decided that Spanish settlers would rule this part of Africa. The French and the Spanish split the old empire. France settled on modern Mauritania and Algeria and installed a protectorate in the remainder of the monarchy’s land.
After World War 2, and the beginning of the independence wave worldwide, Mohammed V – the grandfather of Morocco’s current king – took the opportunity to claim sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
This in turn inspired Mauritania, which was enticed by this land’s natural resources. The inhabitants of the Western Sahara themselves quickly followed suit. They developed their independence movement to claim the right of having a new state of their own: The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
For obvious reasons, both the UN and Algeria supported this new movement. The United Nations officially did so to defend the Sahrawi people’s right of self-governance and democracy. The latter wanted to acquire the enormous reserve of unexploited phosphates still beneath the earth of the Sahara and financed the independent movement to create a diplomatic bond with the area.
Hassan 2, the king of Morocco at the time, reacted quickly and organized one of the most fascinating political moves of the last century: The Green March. On the 6th of November 1975, he sent thousands of Moroccans to walk unarmed into the Western Sahara. He then invited some of the Moroccan population to move to the Western Sahara and settle there in order to occupy that territory.
After this tactical move, Spain and Mauritania renounced control of Western Sahara, and Morocco assumed 80% of the territory. Despite the situation, Algeria continued to finance the independence movement. It helped the leaders by accepting them as political refugees to Tindouf – a city at the border between Algeria and Western Sahara.
This more or less summarizes why diplomatic relations have been unstable between Algeria and Morocco for the past 50 years.
For someone who values self-governance and democracy, maybe it makes sense to support the independence movements in the Western Sahara. But for someone who wants Muslims to become powerful nations, the logical conclusion would be to help Morocco on this issue.
Globally, Morocco is one of the last great Islamic monarchies still standing. It is also one of the most stable countries in the Muslim World, with a stable population, a strong culture, and not many internal divisions.
Who cares about western values? It doesn’t matter if Moroccan policy respects international and human rights laws.
Additionally, it is weird to see many Muslims on the internet defending the Sahrawi Movement, whose slogan is: “Liberty, Democracy, and Unity.”
Should any true Muslim want such a movement to achieve power within the Muslim world?
I shall end by saying that many believers try to remain neutral on this issue in the name of peace and unity. Western Values won’t bring cohesion to the Muslim World. They will only serve to deepen the hostility that already exists within the Ummah.
Tariq ibn Shihab reported: Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Verily, we were a disgraceful people, and Allah honored us with Islam. If we seek honor from anything besides that with which Allah has honored us, then Allah will disgrace us.” (Al-Mustadrak ‘ala ‘l-Sahihayn)