Moroccan immigration

2011-02-22 11:46:55

The Moroccan presence in North America was small until the 1950s. According to the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 38,923 Americans and 21,355 Canadians claimed Moroccan descent. Most Moroccan Americans lived in large urban areas, mainly in New York and New England. Three-quarters of all Canadian Moroccans lived in Montreal, Quebec.
Morocco covers 177,117 square miles in northwestern Africa. It is bordered on the east by Algeria and on the south by Western Sahara (a contested area). Ten miles to the north, across the Mediterranean Sea, lies Spain. About three-quarters of Morocco’s population of 29,237,000 (2001) is Berber, but the majority of Berbers speak Arabic and practice Islam. The country is mainly divided between Arab culture (65 percent) and Berber culture groups (33 percent), though 98 percent of the entire population is Muslim. Settled mainly by Berber tribespeople in ancient times, Morocco was an ally of Rome, forming part of its province of Mauretania. Morocco was conquered by Arab armies during the seventh century, though Berber resistance and regional independence remained prominent until the 11th century, when the Almoravid confederation conquered virtually all the country. Almost all Moroccans eventually converted to Islam. During the 14th and 15th centuries, thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Spain and Portugal settled in Morocco. France and Spain both began to encroach on Moroccan territory during the 1840s and 1850s, and France ruled the region from 1912 to 1956, when it regained its independence. Morocco’s Jews fared well under the French, but their position deteriorated when the French government installed in Vichy cooperated with Nazi Germany during World War II (1939–45). Between 1945 and 1956, most of Morocco’s 270,000 Jews emigrated, with the largest number going to Israel. Some, however, came to the United States and Canada.
There were almost no Moroccans in North America prior to World War II. With tiny Muslim communities, the United States and Canada were not attractive cultural magnets for non-Jews, who made up about 98 percent of the Moroccan population. Also, until the late 1990s, France and Spain usually welcomed Moroccan workers, who found it convenient to travel back and forth between work and home. By the 1990s, however, an increasing number were turning to North America, favoring French-speaking Montreal as a destination. In 2001, more than 16,000 of Canada’s 21,000 Moroccans lived in Montreal, with more than 40 percent arriving between 1991 and 2001. Most recent Moroccan immigrants to the United States tended to be somewhat better educated, though it is still early to determine the relative success of Moroccan integration. In 1990, there were about 15,000 Moroccan immigrants in the country, most residing in New York City where there was a strong activist element among Muslim leaders. The Moroccans played a large role in building New York’s second mosque, the Islamic Mission of America for the Propagation of Islam and Defense of the Faith and the Faithful. Between 1992 and 2002, about 27,000 Moroccans immigrated to the United States, representing 70 percent of the entire Moroccan community in the country.