Does the colour of our passports really matter?
That photo was taken at last weekend's Marrakesh ePrix. I wanted a shot of one of the local youngsters posing in front of the race publicity material. But being only too aware that photographing minors is frowned on - or worse - in England and elsewhere in the West, I was hesitant to ask. But my preconceptions were, once again, wrong. This teenager could not have been more amenable; his cousins all wanted to be photographed as well and there were numerous requests to not only exchange Facebook and Twitter details but also to share phone numbers.
When I entered Morocco in November the police looked at the very large number of Moroccan stamps in my passport and asked if I was a drug smuggler or sex tourist, to which I replied 'dream on'. When I left Marrakesh last Sunday a policeman at the airport looked at the multiple stamps and asked if I lived in Morocco. I replied 'No, but I wouldn't mind living here', to which he responded 'In shāʾa llāh' (God willing) and waved me through security with a smile. As soon as I arrived home my passport, complete with multiple Moroccan stamps and Egyptian and Indian visas - I avoid America - was sent off for renewal. In the last months I have travelled outside the EU twice and inside once, and in a few weeks my new passport will take me again to the outer reaches of the EU. As someone who frequently crosses geo-political borders, I did not hesitate to vote 'remain' in the UK's EU referendum. But I have become increasingly disillusioned with the head-in-the-sand attitude of the anti-Brexit camp - an attitude that reached its ludicrous apogee in their raucous whinging about the colour of the post-Brexit UK passport.
I couldn't give a damn about the colour of my new passport as long as it facilitates the life-enhancing explorations that I am so fortunate to enjoy. I regret that those explorations may be made more difficult by Britain's exit from the EU. But I also appreciate that whether I live in a Britain inside or outside the EU and whether my passport is burgundy or blue, I am so much more fortunate than the Moroccan youth in my photo. It is almost certain that he does not have a passport, and he knows that even if he did it would be virtually impossible to travel to the role-modelling West which is all too familiar to him from saturation media coverage. Despite this he is making something of his life in a way that puts many of his Western peers to shame. How sad that all those who bombard social media 24/7 with their anti-Brexit rants do not have a more balanced view. And what an irony that the very same people who tell us self-righteously that the colour of our skin does not matter also tell us that the colour of our passport does.
Sincere thanks go to the followers in Marrakesh of the Sufi saint Ibn Al-Habib who provided the contrasting opportunity for me to engage with Moroccan youngsters that helped spark this post. Also on Facebook and Twitter.