Thursday, 9th August 2012
Moroccans lead initiative for integration of their youth into Gib community
by F Oliva
Linewall Mosque Imam Abdoul Samade (left) and Said Ghabroua pictured yesterday.
A new initiative to integrate second and third generation Gibraltar-born Moroccan youths into the local community has been unveiled by the Imam of the Linewall mosque Abdul Samade and long term resident Said Ghabroua.
As advanced last week, the idea is to create a youth structure in which Gibraltarians of all religious backgrounds – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – can come together, participate in sporting, leisure & educational activities
and overcome mutual suspicions.
The recent arrest of Al-Qaeda terrorists in La Linea and Ciudad Real and concerns by Moroccan workers that some of their youths may be logging on to radical jihadist websites has brought the problem of integration into sharper focus.
“We don’t know what they get up to, so we need to have something in place that can help us ensure that they are brought up properly, that they keep out of trouble, and that they can follow good examples as they grow up,” said Imam Samade.
Relations with local youths is another sticking point that goes to the core of integration issues and the Upper Town, a habitual ‘hotspot’ for anti-social behaviour and incidents involving both sets of youngsters, is a constant reminder of the little progress that has been achieved to date. According to Mr Ghabroua there are Moroccan youths who are resentful of the Gibraltar Government “as an entity and not along party political lines,” on the basis that Moroccans have been denied their rights.
“We are trying to change that mentality explaining to them that we have come a long way since we first arrived in Gibraltar in the late sixties. We have residence rights, passports and many other benefits,” he declared.
Mr Ghabroua further states that when he came to Gibraltar in 1979 as a twelve year old, “I had far less rights than these kids today.”
He said these youths also harbour grudges against the RG Police and claim they are mistreated, a notion he says is “untrue.”
“We know that the police act legally when dealing with our youths. In fact there are two Moroccan policemen already who serve as good role models for other youngsters and we applaud and welcome everything that contributes to achieving greater integration.”
He said the project in hand would be a useful way of “showing them the reality of Gibraltar” rather than the distorted picture they have.
Mr Ghabroua said they wanted to be involved in all types of community and charity activities whether it involved “cleaning up the beaches,” building a float for the cavalcade or “helping to paint the Catholic Church. He said that if they were invited by Jews or Christians to participate in events they would be happy to attend.
Expressing their rejection of terrorism, they reiterate that the Moroccan community in Gibraltar is here “to live in peace.”
Gibraltar, they continued, “is our country and naturally we do not want anything bad for it. On the contrary, we want the best future for our community.”
Mr Ghabroua added that they were prepared to work and cooperate with the RG Police to further the integration plans.
Imam Samade said that during the month of Ramadam, he had regularly spoken to between 50-60 youths highlighting the message that Muslims, Jews and Christians should come together as Gibraltarians in the community. He said “we are all brothers” and highlighted the need to bring down existing barriers.
He said the important thing in being able to steer these youths in the right direction is to ensure they are kept busy doing productive educational and sporting activities.
“It is only if they have too much time in their hands that they can get up to misdeeds,” he declared.
He said the idea of the youth club and other educational activities would feed them with “positive ideas about the community,” and advance their integration. They further state that now there are 140 Moroccan youths in Gibraltar and estimate that the number could grow to 5,000 in fifteen years time.
“We have to fix the problem here and now,” they concluded.