Foreign Policy Blogs

Move us forward, Tiny Dancer

elton_johnThis week, Sir. Elton John brought more than sequins, rhinestone-studded sunglasses and 40+ years of music-making to North Africa.  He was at the center of a very lively debate on tolerance, modernity and progress in Morocco.

The Mawazine Festival is an annual international music festival held in Rabat and has attracted several big names over the years such as Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston.  This year’s festival, which runs through May 29, will bring the likes of Harry Connick Jr., Al Jarreau, Deolinda, Carlos Santana, B.B. King and, yes, Sir. Elton John, to Morocco’s capital.

Immediate criticism came from members of Morocco’s main Islamist opposition party, the PJD, who “categorically reject[ed] the appearance of this singer [Elton John] because there is a risk of encouraging homosexuality in Morocco.”

Many prominent civil society leaders “categorically rejected” this criticism and took a surprisingly strong stand to support and defend what organizers of the festival called “diversity and cultural tolerance.”

In the end, despite all the outcry, debate and heightened security, an estimated 30,000+ turned out to “feel the love tonight.”

To call this week’s clash a debate over homosexuality in Morocco would be simplifying a larger challenge faced by all the countries in the region—reconciling the complexities of tradition, religion, tolerance, modernity and progress. To merely say that allowing Elton John to perform is a sign that Morocco is becoming more “Western” is also short-sided (and, frankly insulting—as if to say that tolerance and modernity are uniquely “Western” values.)  Morocco, as are its neighbors to varying degrees, is forging its own path to openness in our increasingly connected world which forces confrontation between diverse cultures and larger-than-life personalities.

Thank you, Sir.



Calvin Dark

Calvin Dark is an international policy and strategic communications professional based in Washington, DC. For more than 10 years, he has advised US and international bodies and organizations, primarily focusing on political, economic and cultural relations with Latin America, Western Europe and the Middle East and North Africa. Calvin is also a social media enthusiast trying to connect the world one tweet, post and #hashtag at a time.

Calvin was a Fulbright Scholar to Morocco where he conducted research on civil society’s role in increasing transparency and public confidence in Morocco’s government institutions and services. Calvin received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and French from Duke University and has studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Paris, France. He speaks French, Spanish, Arabic and English (North Carolina’s special dialect.)

Calvin is also passionate about Southern storytelling and oral histories and is the author of Tales From My Dark Side [], a collection of stories about the Darks, a central North Carolina family and their unique ways of reconciling the complex notions of race, community and family.

Anything else? Oh yea, he loves to spin and is a spin instructor.

Contact Calvin at [email protected]