The Jewish Chronicle - - Community - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE MINT tea was fly­ing from the bar. Crispy Moroc­can dough­nuts — sfenj — were be­ing dipped in su­gar. And in a cor­ner of the room at the Po­rat Yosef Moroc­can syn­a­gogue in Hen­don stood an Ara­bic tent with cush­ions, lanterns and syn­thetic palms, set up by Harif, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Jews from the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

Sun­day af­ter­noon’s Chanu­cah party was a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, given that it was or­gan­ised jointly by the Moroc­can con­sulate. At­ten­dees in­cluded con­sul-gen­eral Rachid Agas­sim — ac­com­pa­nied by his 23-year-old daugh­ter Meriem — and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Moroc­can banks and the tourism in­dus­try.

“The King of Morocco at­taches great im­por­tance to the Moroc­can di­as­pora, Jewish and Mus­lim,” Mr Agas­sim

Rachid Agas­sim ( MP Matthew Of­ford

with lo­cal

ex­plained. “The Moroc­can Jewish com­mu­nity all over the world has strong links with their coun­try of ori­gin. They come for pil­grim­ages or fam­ily vis­its.

“We want to share this celebration to show that we in Morocco have no prob­lem with re­li­gion. First of all you are Moroc­can, then what you want to be, Mus­lim or Jewish.” Among the guests was Souad Talsi, a Ber­ber Mus­lim who founded Al-Hasaniya, the Moroc­can Women’s Cen- tre in Lon­don, 28 years ago. “I am de­lighted to meet the Moroc­can Jewish com­mu­nity,” she said. “We share the same mu­sic, lan­guage, cul­ture.”

An­dalu­cian-flavoured mu­sic com­peted with the buzz of con­ver­sa­tion as peo­ple tucked into del­i­ca­cies such as bastilla, filo pas­try with a sweet fill­ing.

Mr Agas­sim said the con­sulate and other staff were on hand to an­swer prac­ti­cal ques­tions.“For ex­am­ple, some peo­ple have been told that if you have an Is­raeli pass­port, you can’t go there. It’s wrong — you can go.”

Al­though some politi­cians back home had pro­posed a bill to crim­i­nalise con­tact with Is­rael, he was con­fi­dent “it will not go through. It goes against the prin­ci­ples of tol­er­ance and open­ness which Morocco is preach­ing and fol­low­ing.” The diplo­mat, who in his third year in Lon­don, also hopes to or­gan­ise joint events for the ex­pa­tri­ate Mus­lim and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties.

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