Doing Business with Muslims

Morocco has been an ally of the US since 1777. Morocco is a Muslim country and has been for well over 1,000 years. It welcomes tourists gladly. I know, because I take US tourists there.

I'm a US citizen, married to a Spaniard, and have been doing business in Morocco since 2005. In over 10 years of taking people to Morocco, I have had many experiences, but none of them included feeling not welcome. There have been obstacles and challenges, but my overall feeling is that doing business with Moroccans is a pleasure.

A few days ago, I was trying to make last-minute arrangements to get a group of American university students into a modern clothing factory for a visit. I went to the Tourist Delegation, who directed me to the Chamber of Commerce. There, without an appointment, I met a Moroccan man who spoke at least 4 languages and who quickly relieved me of my fractured French. I told him my mission and he told me he had a contact who would have it resolved in an hour. He made a phone call and it was done.

The next day, I took my group on an extensive guided tour of a state-of-the-art factory led by the young Moroccan/English owner. He took an hour of his time and showed us everything, as well as answering our numerous questions.

While looking at the hundreds of workers and marveling at the modern facility, I wondered what would happen to a Muslim visitor to the US asking for permission to visit one of our factories or a hospital, or a school, with a group of Muslim students. I don't think they would have been shown the courtesy my group was shown.  

We asked the owner about wages in the factory. Workers are getting minimum wage in Morocco, which translates to about $1.30/hour. There is no shortage of laborers happy to work for that hourly rate. We asked why he had set up his factory in Morocco when his customers are in Spain and the UK. He told us the government of Morocco gave them 5 years of no taxes, plus transportation costs to Europe were very low via the biggest port in Africa, 25 miles away, and that the Moroccan labor force was well-educated and ready to work.

Later that day we met Catholic nuns who were living and working in the country. While they are not able to seek converts, they are free to practice their faith without hindrance. They teach languages among other things. They'd volunteered to be there. Had they experienced any hatred or hostility? No.

We regularly visit families and do home stays on our trips. We place American students with Moroccan families in order that they might understand Moroccan culture better.  For Moroccans, guests are gifts from God. They pray, by the way, to the very same God as that of Christians and Jews. They believe in the prophets of the Old and New Testaments.

Not everything is wonderful. There are sometimes incomprehensible bureaucratic hurdles, but with patience and perseverance, these can be overcome. Not everything works on time, nor as one would hope. Time moves differently there. Things can seem completely unorganized, but it almost always falls together, somehow or other.

Do Moroccans hate Americans? The short answer is no, of course not. They separate the citizens of a country from its government. Do they like being lumped in with Islamic extremists? No. Do they resent the recent actions of the US government? I don't know, because most of them will never have an opportunity to visit the US, so being vetted is not something they think about. They are not ashamed to be Muslims.

I have asked them if they could tell Americans anything, what would it be? More than once, they have stated that Islam is a religion of peace. 'Morocco is your second home,' is something I have often heard.

What do they think about Islamic terrorism? They say those who practice terrorism are not Muslims; that these are political struggles, not ones of faith or religion.

What do they want for their children? Good spouses, good jobs, grandchildren—the same thing most parents want for their children.

I've been working in Morocco for over 10 years and I have consistently felt safe and welcome there. I work with people who are honest and funny and reliable. They respect me and I respect them and their culture. Though I ask them to speak of their faith with our visitors in order that Americans can understand better, we do not often talk about Islam or politics. We work together, we solve problems, we laugh and we trust each other.

What we believe affects our behavior. I believe that if we treat each other with respect and trust, then most times that respect and trust will be returned to us, regardless of a person's religion.

I have found doing business with Muslims to be no different from doing business with other people.

Muslims are not our enemies and if you think they are, then it is your belief which needs to be questioned, not all Muslims.