The Real Freedom Fighters


Until I was introduced to the Morocco orientation class, I had no idea about what the Arab Spring was. With the little amount of news that I consumed on a weekly basis, I was shocked to discover that this movement not only existed, but was thriving in the East. The Arab Spring has been misinterpreted by much of the world as radical youth movements that occurrs in the Arab world. In reality, the Arab Spring represents the hopeful progression towards the betterment of the Arab world. The movement, founded in the desire for political and societal change, unlike terrorism, is an attempt to gather people together in order to speak out and work together in the name of change. The characters in Laila Lalami’s Secret Son and Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits reflect the essentials ideas of the Arab Spring and provide insight into the world of these “freedom fighters”. It can even be said that Lalami predicted the eventual rise of the Arab Spring. As I have observed in my studies, Lalami invests in her characters, giving literary voice to the Arab community suffering under injustice.

Youssef, the main character of Secret Son is written as a representation of so many Muslim youths who are unable to pry themselves away from the injustice of Morocco’s class and economic inequality. At this point in Lalami’s novels, the state has entirely abandoned it’s people. Mistreatment and a lack of political action has entrapped the people of Morocco, much like Youssef and his mother, Rachida, into not only a state of general poverty, but emotional turmoil. Compared to Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby, Youssef’s lack of justice cannot be satisfied with the monetary favors that his father granted him. Reflective of the political arena, Youssef is entirely unable to raise himself and Rachida out of poverty despite his numerous attempts due to the governments neglect and abuse, causing him to desperate acts. In the same way, Halima of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is led to the desperate act of crossing into Spain because the authorities, even a corrupt judge, will not save her and her children from her abusive husband.

In Morocco, it was apparent that much of what I had read was far more than fiction. I could see the men and women who possessed little to nothing while others lived in luxury and comfort. When I passed any young Moroccan trying to earn money, I could see in them a bit of Lalami’s Murad or Fatema. The Arab Spring is now much more to me since I have walked amongst the people who mirror the characters I studied. In every rally of the Arab Spring in the East, there is a Youssef crying out against injustice and a Halima who is forced to sacrifice the safety of her children in the hope of a better life. These characters in their desperation are entangled in a history of political strife and social injustice. Lalami writes these Moroccan men and woman as an example of the voices that are crying out in the name of hope and justice. As Lalami describes, they are “unable to deliver [their] own lines” because of the oppression that they face. Yet they are never without hope. Where terrorism is a violent act devoid of hope, Lalami’s protagonists fight simply for the hope of change and freedom in the hands of unity. They are the real freedom fighters.





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