Mohamed Benaïssa is Mayor of the Moroccan city of Assilah and Secretary-General of the Assilah Forum Foundation. He is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco, having also previously served as the country’s Minister of Culture.
The roots of emigration are so deeply embedded in human civilization that it is practically impossible to establish when its history really began. The earliest civilizations were, by their very nature, migrant communities whose movements were based on hunting, harvesting fruits and vegetables, or moving from exhausted soils to vaster and richer terrain. The first migrations, which were spontaneous, took place on familiar land that was not, however, up to that time subject to ownership complexities or political obligations.
In the eyes of the philosophic school adhering to the social contract theory, this situation could not have been more natural, for it harmonized with human nature and ensured psychological balance and happiness.
However, emerging townships and states soon presented complications that disrupted the natural cycle and spontaneity of this ancient emigration—the importance of which varied from one community to another, depending on culture and circumstance. In Hellenistic Athens, for instance, foreigners held the right of residence, but were not allowed to benefit from certain civic rights, and so were looked down upon as racially alienated, producing a situation giving them a status inferior to that of a citizen. Although citizens benefited from the protection of the law, forms of relational discrimination between citizens and outsiders were not identical or total around the world, and the interaction they aroused on a local level gave rise to new kinds of civilization.
The Melting Pot as a Basis for the wealth of Civilizations
Was Ancient Greece not formed of peoples from the Orient who settled there, and was it not from this very melting pot of civilization that the pure Greek spirit arose, which, according to Aristotle, was the result of contact between the Orient and the Occident? This intermingling—this melting pot-ness, to coin a term—was the rule rather than the exception in the civilizations of classical antiquity, as it was with the civilizations that succeeded each other in Mesopotamia, India, and China. All these populations emanated from different regions and came together to form something greater than the sum of its various demographic parts.
To take a case in point, the civilization of my own country, Morocco, owes its wealth of character to this diversity of civilizations.