Internet Activists, the Guinea Pigs of Democracy

Despite threats, Morocco’s citizen media proponents continue to test limits, making themselves the guinea pigs of democracy. Eatbees outlines the limits to free speech in Morocco, and highlights the achievements of bloggers and activists.


American novelist and blogger based in Morocco. 44 comments

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

In the realm of citizen expression, there are really only two choices. Either it is considered an essential right, or it isn’t. And in recent years, Morocco has made the choice to permit it, rather decisively it seems, compared to many other states in the Arab world. Journalist-publishers such as Aboubakr Jamaï, Ahmed Reza Benchemsi, and Rachid Nini have become national figures by enlarging the boundaries of public expression. Internet clubs known as “cybers” proliferate in even the poorest urban districts and the most remote towns. More and more young people have computers at home. Sites such as YouTube and Facebook are uncensored, and have become a focus for Internet activism, such as a recent Facebook page criticizing the nepotism of Prime Minister Abbas al-Fassi and his family (though it was ultimately banned by Facebook itself). Moroccans have access to the world’s TV channels through satellite, and the world’s cinema through a thriving bootleg market. No doubt the Moroccan state understands that to compete in the global economy, it needs a better connected and informed citizenry. Regardless of the reasons, the decision has been made, and it’s too late to turn back.

Despite this undeniable progress, which is increasingly taken for granted by Moroccan youth, there have been a number of bumps in the road. 2009 saw several cases in which journalists, bloggers, and citizen activists were threatened, fined, or even thrown in prison by the more authoritarian elements of the state. In many cases, after the predictable outcry, the state relented, issuing pardons, shortening sentences, or letting the case die a quiet death. In other instances, however, when the state felt its fundamental interests were at stake, it stood its ground regardless of how it would look. The territorial unity of Morocco including the southern provinces is an obvious sore point. What this tells me is that in the current environment, which is in flux from an authoritarian state to something much more tolerant and open, neither the state nor its citizens are entirely sure where the new boundaries lie. At times, citizen activists may think they have freedoms that the state isn’t yet willing to give. Just as often, it seems, elements of the state with an obsolete mindset respond to citizen expression with a heavy hand, and the ensuing international embarrassment means their actions have to be walked back. The general trend is toward the establishment of public expression as a basic right, within certain limits, but the progress being made is in fits and starts.

Given this, the role of citizen media is to test those limits. This may not be deliberate, as in the case of Fouad Mourtada, who surely had no idea that he would be picked up off the street by the police, then sentenced to prison, for posting a spoof page of Prince Moulay Rachid on Facebook. Yet it is inevitable, because even in the freest of societies there are controversial forms of expression, and practical limits to free speech. In Morocco, even today the state gives greater importance to social stability than to an absolute right of expression, as seen in the hasty expulsion of numerous Christian evangelists, justified as necessary to protect the public order due to the outrage their activities might have stirred up. In the U.S. the right to proselytize for any faith is seen as an absolute right, but not in Morocco. Another example is the arrest of a blogger and Internet club owner last year for the spreading of “false information,” namely images of police using force at a student demonstration, and a communique protesting the incident. Both received prison sentences, and while the blogger was released early, the cyber club owner is still in jail. The state’s harsh reaction in this case was perhaps colored by the fact that the incident occurred in the southern Sahara region, where the state is particularly sensitive to outbreaks of popular opposition.

My point is that any state will make practical judgments about how much freedom to permit, and enshrine them in law. However, in Morocco those limits are not so well defined. On the one hand, the king is famous for saying that anything is open to discussion, outside the monarchy itself and his family, although obviously he would like the debate to be constructive. On the other hand, the state still has reflexes towards public order that, to a Westerner like myself, look overly paranoid. This is changing as the police and courts are rejuvenated by a younger generation more in tune with the ethic of public service. It is changing too as the citizens themselves, part of a rapidly modernizing society in touch with the world, put into practice their right to critique the events of the day. I’ve lived on and off in Morocco since 2003, and in that short time, I’ve noticed that there is much less staring over one’s shoulder at corner cafés out of fear of who might overhear what is said. A culture of citizen expression is taking root, not just on the internet but in daily life. But there is more to be done, through judicial reform and consistent application of the law, to clarify both the right to expression and its limits. Morocco’s bloggers and internet activists deserve this protection. Meanwhile, whether they choose to be or not, they are the guinea pigs of democracy—the test case for what is permitted and what is not.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

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44 comments on “Internet Activists, the Guinea Pigs of Democracy”

  1. @eatbees: “On the one hand, the king is famous for saying that anything is open to discussion”

    [citation needed]

    If anything, the monarchy is infamous for limiting freedom of expression.

  2. hey, I don’t really understand this:

    “the hasty expulsion of numerous Christian evangelists, justified as necessary to protect the public order due to the outrage their activities might have stirred up.”

    The reason of the hasty expulsion was what? The people who were kicked out had been in Morocco for decades. And how does the reason behind it correspond to the justification? What to think about the accusation of the MNN: Muslim uses Facebook profiles to find and target Christians?

    And by the way: what you call “the southern provinces” of Morocco is in fact the occupied territory of Western Sahara. But you know that.

    • Thanks for sharing that article, vankaas. Incidentally, Muslim groups have also (rightly, as I’ve seen the Facebook groups) been accused of targeting Arab secularists and atheists on Facebook too.

  3. vankaas, I’m not justifying the expulsion at all, I’m just repeating one of the official explanations I read (from the Minister of Islamic Affairs).

    My point is that the Moroccan state has a different idea of the balance between freedom and security than we are used to in the West, which I think is obvious.

  4. Eatbees thanks,
    All I am saying is the justification can’t be the reason for these people worked in Morocco for a long time. A hasty expulsion must have been concluded on something urgent. The urgency is not explained in the official explanation you just repeated. Is there any not-official explanation? Might be better. What do you think for yourself?

  5. vankaas, I don’t know what to think. Why the Moroccan state makes some of its security decisions is inscrutable to me.

    It could have something to do with the fact that Morocco has both a new Interior Minister and a new Justice Minister since January, which may indicate a shift in policies that led them to deal with these cases at this particular point in time.

    I know that Morocco has a thin skin about post-colonial meddling and may see the presence of Christian evangelists as an example of that. They may feel that these people had an agenda beyond just helping kids, and they were willing to tolerate it for only so long. If as alleged, the people expelled were teaching kids to pray in Christian style and giving them Bibles, well, like it or not that’s against the law here.

    Once the decision was made, it makes sense from their point of view to handle it quickly, so the international fallout would also blow over as quickly as possible.

    But really you’re asking me to read the minds of the Moroccan authorities, and the bottom line is, I have no idea :)

  6. Eatbees, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. @eatbees

    It’s clear why the state does what it does. Morocco’s an Islamic country and that’s that! You would have to be blind to miss the obvious.

  8. Mounir, with all due respect, that doesn’t explain why the evangelists were expelled all of a sudden after being allowed to operate in Morocco for so many years, which is what vankaas was asking.

    My point in the article was that the lines between permitted and unpermitted behavior are changing, and aren’t always clear.

    If Morocco is an Islamic country (and I agree that’s what the law says), then why are so many un-Muslim activities tolerated, like sale of alcohol by Muslims to Muslims? Why is pornography available in public cyber clubs?

    If Morocco is an Islamic country, what are we going to do with those Moroccans who have decided they are unbelievers (I know a few)? Since this post was originally about citizen expression on the Internet, do Moroccans have the right to raise their doubts about Islam in a public forum, or are they breaking the law? If they got in trouble for doing it, would you defend their right to expression or not?

    I think it’s a little more complicated than you imply.

  9. “Mounir, with all due respect, that doesn’t explain why the evangelists were expelled all of a sudden after being allowed to operate in Morocco for so many years”

    Yes it does. Unless you’re blind.

    Those evangelists were allowed to operate in Morocco under the condition that they do not talk about baby Jesus to little Mohammed, Aicha et Abdeljalil. Once word got out that they did (whether true or not), it was over for them because Morocco is an Islamic country.

    For alcohol, it has to do with both tourism and the king’s interests. Selling alcohol to a Moroccan of known Muslim descent is still a crime on the books. And the king makes a handsome profit selling booze in the country.

    Pornography is available because it can’t be controlled short of unhooking the country off the internet. If neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia managed to do anything about it, it’s not even worth trying for a relatively less Islamic country.

    Unbelievers are constantly harassed both by the state and the general population (I know more than just a few). When they go to file a complaint, they get beat up by the cops.

    It is indeed complicated, but the reason the evangelists were kicked out is crystal clear. Read the official communique that was released by the Moroccan government following the debacle.

    • Just to jump in here, both Iran and Saudi heavily filter pornography online. For what it’s worth. Satellite TV however, is what it is.

    • Hi Mounir,
      I still wonder why these people have been kicked out at that moment. As far as I know, their house for the care of orphans was a very established institution, well maintained for decades, they did have all necessary permits and they did not do anything differently as they have been doing for 20 or so years. So the simple question is valid. What is going on?
      The simple fact that “Unbelievers are constantly harassed both by the state and the general population” is not correct in this case. Hey, they were allowed to establish a complete orphans house!

      So what’s cooking in Morocco? A special Islamic recipe? An ingredient may be added by an Iranian source happy to point to a EU-Moroccan dispute? See also here.

      • @Van Kaas:

        Don’t read too much into the expulsion of those folks. It’s just business as usual. The arbitrariness of the Moroccan judiciary and cops is world renowned.

        Moroccans go to pubs and liquor stores on a daily basis. They get pissed like clockwork. And yet, it is illegal to sell alcohol to Moroccans of “Muslim origin”. If a cop or a judge suddenly decides to apply the law, they will. Not out of some grand Islamic recipe or obscure scheme. But just business as usual in an Islamic country.


        They try. But they’re not making a dent. Check google trends to see how Iran and Saudi Arabia rank in searches for the word “sex”. As many other Muslim countries, they make it into the top ten.

        In Morocco, it is BANNED to import pornographic material. It’s the law! You may not know it, but that is the case. That the state does not go through the trouble of setting up a SmartFilter system is more out of incompetence and arbitrariness than it is about endorsing liberal values.

        Anyway, I am going to get dragged into how Morocco is less of a shit-hole than Iran or Saudi Arabia. But I’ll gladly provide you with legal texts and precedents regarding prosecution of pornography in Morocco in case you became isolated from reality.

      • Mounir,

        Before you get all riled up, I didn’t argue with you regarding the laws on pornography in Morocco. No need to insult me. I simply argued that Saudi and Iran have strong filters for pornographic websites. And despite your statement regarding Google trends, just because they can do the search, does not mean they can fully access those sites. This is what I do for a living: study Internet censorship. Trust me when I say that Saudis and Iranians are heavily blocked from accessing porn; most, however, have access to circumvention software or VPNs, thus that is how they access it.

      • Nowhere did I insult you. And we agree that Iran and Saudi Arabia heavily censor the web. But pornography is easily available in those places and that was the point I was making.

        Question is though why did you feel the need to pick on a detail?

  10. Mounir, you make clear you don’t care, but I am sorry I have to say: the way you express it is not correct. It’s notjust business as usual, for the usual business of these people for years was the care for orphans which has been interrupted by a hastily and sudden break up. This has also been crude for the little kids. Why was this inhuman act necessary? What was the rush? Simply stating this is normal procedure for an Islamic state won’t do. It is not and never will be normal to harass little kids. Nowhere.

    • vankaas, I think I’m going to stick up for the Moroccan state here a little bit. The problem as I see it is that this group was taking advantage of these children’s vulnerability to inculcate them with Christian beliefs. At that age, children can’t analyze and make an informed choice. Moreover, they were doing it secretly, knowing it’s against the law. When word got around, I’m sure this caused some consternation among the neighbors, and after all, these children may be orphans, but they are sure to have extended family somewhere who weren’t happy about this.

      I’m not a fan of evangelism as a profession, and I never appreciated it myself when Mormon missionaries came to my door in the U.S. But I support their right to do that, in principle. Dishonest evangelism is a different story, taking advantage of vulnerable children to apply psychological pressure to follow a different religion. One red flag that went up for me were the evangelists’ own words after their expulsion, when they talked about the grief of being separated from “our” children. But they were never the evangelists’ children! This reminds me of the Westerners who went to Chad and Haiti, and rounded up children to take them out of the country without permission. What gall! I’m sure the whole thing could have been handled better by the Moroccan authorities, but I don’t see much popular sympathy here for the evangelists.

      Interestingly, you say it is the Moroccan state, not the evangelists, who were “harassing little kids.” It’s true that if the Moroccan state or Islamic charities had been providing the same services, there would have been no vacuum for the evangelists to fill. This shows a certain institutional insensitivity; as does, even more so, the fact that apparently no provisions were made for what to do with the kids after the institution was shut down. So here, I partly agree with you — though I think that “harassing” is too strong. The authorities probably see themselves as “protecting” the kids from a religious predator.

      I’m still not sure personally if the state’s action was right. I tend to feel yes, but the lack of a public trial shows arbitrariness and lack of transparency. On the other hand, does the Moroccan state owe us an explanation? Are expulsion procedures against immigrants any more transparent in the West? Foreigners living in any state are there as guests. If the state agrees to let them live there, it’s a privilege not a right. It comes on the condition of good behavior, whatever the local laws may be. The evangelists seem to have forgotten that they were in Morocco conditionally. They crossed a line that should have been obvious to them, and now they are gone.

      • “at that age children can’t analyze and make an informed choice”

        Funny! How is it then that the Moroccan state can brainwash them with the Quran but if others do the same with a Bible it suddenly becomes outrageous in your eyes and you invoke the age of the toddlers?

        Lovely double standards you have. Keep entertaining us…

      • I can’t stand up for the Moroccan state in such a way; it’s clear to me that their distaste for Christianity has gotten in their way of caring for the actual well-being of children. And like Mounir, I don’t think indoctrinating children into Christianity at a young age is any more or less harmful than forcing Islam down their throats. Of course, I’m not stupid; I realize that the Moroccan government doesn’t feel the same way about religion as I do, but at the same time, their action was unwarranted.

        I also think you are making assumptions about what the so-called “evangelists” were actually doing, based on what is apparently information given to you by MAP. According to insiders, their sole “crime” was possession of an Arabic Bible. Do you have any knowledge that they were actually evangelising to children, or that they had crossed some new line? I don’t, and I think new politics, not crime, is the impetus behind the state’s decision in this case.

      • Jillian, I agree that it’s politics, and I can think of some possible motivations:

        — A pushback for restrictive new laws against Muslims in some European countries
        — A realization that Morocco no longer has to deal with George Bush and his evangelical supporters, so it’s a good time to act against Christian groups that were a thorn in their side anyway
        — A desire by the new Justice and Interior Ministers to throw a bone to Morocco’s religious conservatives

        Mounir is right that the nature of the Islamic state is an important part of the equation, but as vankaas pointed out, that doesn’t explain “Why now and not sooner?”

        I’m still going to insist that it’s possible to see this from an angle where the Village of Hope people aren’t heroes. Doesn’t the fact that they had an Arabic Bible tell you something? Do they prefer to read their Bible in Arabic, or is it possible they were prosteletyzing to the kids? When it was discovered that American soldiers in Afghanistan had a stock of Pashtun Bibles, it was a scandal, because their mission there forbids them from prosteletyzing, for very similar reasons to why the evangelists should have forbidden themselves from doing so in Morocco — it stirs up local resentment and compromises the mission. If their mission was simply to help kids, they should have bent over backwards to avoid even the perception of prosteletyzing. But the evangelical mentality comes with a sense of entitelement. I can imagine a mindset where they just couldn’t help themselves, believing it was best for the kids.

        In a conservative rural region like they were operating in, relations would be awkward at best if word got out that they were prosteletyzing. Some of the kids were asked how they prayed, and they showed Christian prayer. Now maybe that’s their right, but how would we react in the U.S. if the Scientologists started collecting orphans and teaching them about e-meters and the works of L. Ron Hubbard? Wouldn’t there be cries that they were exploiting the kids? On the other hand, maybe the stories of prosteletyzing are nothing but rumor, but what matters is the perception of the community. If they believed the evangelists were teaching Christian prayer to orphans, even if it wasn’t true, they would be upset. The state, always paranoid about security, would see a problem. The easiest way to deal with the problem would be to get those people out of the country. We may not like this approach, but it makes sense as an explanation of what happened.

        For me, what is really shameful here isn’t what happened to the Village of Hope workers, but the fact that the Moroccan state or Moroccan charities weren’t taking care of these kids in the first place. This is compounded by the fact that apparently the authorities shut the place down without thinking through what to do with the kids instead. So rather than focusing on the religious freedom angle, maybe we should be asking why the Moroccan state isn’t taking care of orphans?

        Finally, I’ve heard that the details of the case were extensively debated in the Moroccan press, not just MAP. So if you’re interested Jillian, I can try to track down some of those articles.

    • I do care! As an orphant myself I know all too well how Morocco mistreats its most vulnerable populations. My point was that nobody is willing to talk about the elephant in the room that is the Islamic nature of the state. This is what caused the expulsion of those Evangelists. Nothing more elaborate going on.

      Do you understand now?

      • Mounir, yes I understand what you mean by now. The nature of the elephant is troublesome indeed and should be discussed!
        Nevertheless the nature has been the same for centuries and the Christians (evangelists or not) have been active in Morocco for several years. They got into the country with a not very secret mission. They got all permits to do what they did. The expulsion all of a sudden, without warning, of foster parents must have been harmful to the kids and should be justified by a damned good reason.
        Simply being an Islamic state is no excuse.

  11. Thanks for your comment Eatbees, and I do not agree. I am also not a fan of evangelism. but that’s not what it is about. The action that has been taken was not in the interest of the kids. Any interest that puts itself above that of these kids should be explained and justified otherwise it is hard to understand or respect. Senators in the USA have been reacting negatively on the matter already. The Moroccan ambassador in the Netherlands has been summoned for an explanation. It is not something being taking lightly outside Morocco. If the ruthless actions can not be respected they will backfire.

    I am not an expert on expulsion procedures against immigrants but these are for sure more transparent in the West. There are clear procedures for starters, arguments must be provided and an appeal is possible. Simple things which are missing in this case.
    As far as I know there has not been a criminal complaint against the Christians, there have only been accusations.

    But again, this is not so much about the westerners but about the kids they cared for.

  12. What is Village of hope! It is a plan. Moreover it is a conspirational, wicked representational effort reflecting the most iniquitous and devilish character of the talents, skills, abilities, and processes designed and implemented by Evangelicals to effectively operate in Muslim countries. Their efforts included affiliations, relationships, courtesy along with undercover destruction of the whole value system of Muslim countries, in our case Morocco. They have a keen eye on the end product of achieving goals, objectives, and effective results to meet the changing needs of poor, illiterate and even, at least to them, “benighted” Ishmaelites. Of course, within their so-called fellowship, the Evangelicals overseas provide instructional and supportive services which the masterminds of civilizational chaos and cross-cultural wickedness make use of in pursuit of their Machiavellian goals.

    Chris Broadbent and his disciples were not merely charismatic superhuman Satans as some of us used to think. Rather, they were a horde of pathetic schizoid men who had a demented vision of “purifying” the gene pool of Morocco by inseminating hatred in little innocent Muslim children. They tried aimlessly to achieve their sick goals by exercising total control over their innocent subjects in the suburbs of Ain Leuh. Acts of brainwashing were cherished inside the destitution. In other words, their ambitions, backed by their psychic numbness, justified in their deranged minds all acts of cruelty.
    A few years ago, a stunning children auction took place at the hearth of the Village of Hope three miles outside Ain Leuh, Morocco. Two little innocent orphans were put on the auction block. Word of the sale had spread throughout the Evangelical world for weeks, drawing potential buyers from the four corners of the world. Village of Hope institution and other lodging spaces were quickly appropriated by the influx of visitors. In the days running up to the auction, the VOH underwent daily inspections to inspect, evaluate and determine an appropriate price for the human merchandise on display.

    As Muslims, this is the first time we hear of children being sold. The rules of the auction stipulated that the kids would be sold to Evangelical “families” – defined as a husband and wife and any offspring. However, there was no guarantee that this rule would be adhered to in this case. The sale gained such renown that it attracted the attention of eminent evangelicals overseas, some of whom are descendants of the early Puritans.
    We want to reveal to our readers the barbarity inherent in these proselytisers’ ability to own and sell innocent little Muslim children.

    • As Muslims, this is the first time we hear of children being sold

      Oh really? So I guess when a Moroccan woman borrows a child and uses him to beg for her (a lucrative position, I’m told), that’s not selling out a child? Give me a break. Child abuse happens in every community, in every town, in every country of the world.

  13. The unholy alliance: Errol Muller and Herman Boonstra

    If you asked people who are acquainted with Chris Broadbent to describe him, they would say:
    “The skipper’s face was profoundly lined, and his cheeks are scrawny. He looks at least 10 years older than the pictures you and I see on his facebook profile. His eyes bespeak hatred and lust. He seemed to be embarrassed by the way Herman Boonstra, his accomplice, is cherished inside the institution. Chris Broadbent had the appearance of those colonists depicted in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” if not like the hunter in Jumanji. He looked tongue-tied most of the time, ill at ease, and sloppily dressed. This man who doesn’t even look like normal people, Evangelicals believe, had the will and the machinery whereby he can reinstate the collapsing institution.” Anonymous.

    In Ain Leuh, people started to become sick of the arrogance and brutal malice of VOH proselytizers, simply because they do not honour Muslims nor do they respect the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him.
    It mattered not much to the VOH staff who was right or wrong. They neither knew nor cared that their corrupt chief has displeased his mentors overseas because he could not control his outpost. It mattered only that an entire population of 33 little Muslim kids had to be brainwashed. It was already an issue of Islam versus Zionist Christianity. The chief’s education had been very basic. He had learned the Biblical verses necessary for converting innocent poor Muslims, even though, it is said; he could not understand those verses well. The other estranged members of the institution knew nothing of the cold war between Boomstra, Error, Broadbanter and Padzilla. But they were told that the Elites are great comrades now, which made perfect sense for the senseless.
    Before the Evangelicals became mature, it was clear that they would still not do one thing that has always been impossible for them: UNITE. This caused much mumbling and groaning amongst the godfathers of the Evangelical mission in Ain Leuh and overseas, especially that they knew they wouldn’t survive another winter in Morocco. It was sheer nonsense for most of them: The landscape they see was completely shattered.
    As patriotic Moroccans, VOH reminded us of the early colonists. They used to deliver one and only one message: “We were sent to you. Come with us: you may embark with us any time for happiness together, after pain, after long years of poverty. Make a prayer and this is our grant.”

    VOH is history now and will always be. The wolf pack & the swineherd are finally “scattered” back to where they belong.

    • Interesting hate-speech. No facts but just pure simple hate from this Achmad/Samir website. And what a pity it is Morocco is ruled by this hate-mob.

      • this hate guy from Casa sends also messages to facebook users to spread his hate. Especially to Village of Hope supporters.

      • Such are religious crowds. Demanding you respect their cult (see “honour muslims” and “respect the prophet of Islam, Muhammad”) but extending none of that respect to others. The Evangelists’ expulsion is but one fairly mild example of this principle in action.

    • You lost me at “innocent poor Muslims.”

      No, seriously…how is it any better to brainwash kids with one religion over another at a young age?

      • Jillian — Are you arguing that all forms of religious instruction before a certain age are brainwashing? That’s a legitimate position, I guess, but it seems a bit extreme. Don’t societies around the world generally accept that the parents’ religion (or in this case, the religion of the next of kin) is the default position for the children as well, until such time as they may choose otherwise as adults? Isn’t this what Protestant Sunday school, Catholic confirmation, the Jewish bar mitzvah, and Islamic koranic schools are all about? Is your point that these should all be considered examples of brainwashing — or rather, that prosteletyzing to children at the VOH should NOT be considered brainwashing, and parents/next of kin should have no control over the ideas their children are exposed to? If your child were taught ideas you considered hateful to your value system (let’s say, taught to hate gays) at a nursery school for example, wouldn’t you be up in arms about it, precisely because you are closest to your child and have the right to decide what is in her interest?

        vankaas, Pe — If even half the allegations on that site are true — child auctions, stealing land from orphans who lived there under a previous owner, taking back gifts and saying Mohammed did it — I would be angry too! The author certainly seems to have some inside information — although it could equally well be made-up lies, I really don’t know. But if it’s all made up, what is the motivation for that? And if it’s a he said–he said situation, why should we believe the VOH people and completely ignore this side of the story?

      • Eatbees,

        I’m not sure my personal opinion on religion makes much difference at all, but yes, I think forcing kids to partake in religious activities is a form of brainwashing. In how many cases do you think parents actually allow their children the choice to leave a faith early on? Rare ones, I would guess.

        Nevertheless, my point was not to talk about my atheism and views on religion, rather, it was to point out the sheer hypocrisy of claiming that “poor Muslim kids” could be “brainwashed into Christianity.”

        If your child were taught ideas you considered hateful to your value system (let’s say, taught to hate gays) at a nursery school for example, wouldn’t you be up in arms about it, precisely because you are closest to your child and have the right to decide what is in her interest?

        I would, but don’t you think that’s a moot point in this discussion? Our commenter here is not a parent of those kids, in fact, those kids were forsaken by their Muslim parents. So, as orphans, why should their religion automatically be Islam?

        Nevertheless, I’m more inclined to believe the VOH side of the story for several reasons, the main one being that no Moroccans cared enough about those kids to visit the damn place for years, until suddenly these allegations came about. I know a couple of the long-term VOH folks, though not well, and they continue to claim that they were infrequently visited and pretty much left alone for years by the Moroccan government. It’s quite clear nobody but them gave a crap about those kids.

      • It’s also worth noting that our hate speech-pushing friend here is using an e-mail address that contains the name of one of the VOH folks who was forced to leave the country. Something about that really freaks me out.

  14. @eatbees:

    Don’t societies around the world generally accept that the parents’ religion (or in this case, the religion of the next of kin) is the default position for the children as well, until such time as they may choose otherwise as adults?

    States around the world treated women as second class citizens not long ago. Racism was the norm. It took blood, sweat and tears to get those societies to change. And so they shall be changed on states labeling kids as Jewish or Muslims from birth.

    taking back gifts and saying Mohammed did it

    What part bugs you? The taking back of gifts or saying that Mohammed did it?

    They might as well have added secret sacred rituals where they slit babies’ throats then feast on their tender flesh, and you would still find a way to miss the defamation. Instead of immediately seeing the obvious: xenophobia and Islamism, you’re trailing the bandwagon deciding whether it’s time to jump in.

    There’s a zillion libelous rumors that target Jewish or secular people of impeccable character in Morocco. All over the web. And in chain emails. These are journalists, surf shop owners or school teachers. The attacks invariably paint them into child abusers and petty thieves.

  15. @ Eatbees “If even half the allegations on that site are true — child auctions, stealing land from orphans who lived there under a previous owner, taking back gifts and saying Mohammed did it — I would be angry too!”

    Sure, and that is the point concerning hate-speech: it has the aim to make people angry. However please note the allegations against VoH come without any proof. It is slander. Stories made up to inflict damage. These are also deliberate governmental lies because they are part of a policy.
    And that is why the accusations did not make it into the justice system and a legal defence is not possible.

    The allegations are not true, not for 50, 75 or 98, but the full one hundred percent. Achmad/Samir wrote evil words coming from a criminal mind.

  16. Ahmad, once again

    A Voice of Reason from inside the Village of Hope

    Today, we will leave the floor to a voice of reason from inside the wicked world of Village of Hope. Our speaker, who happens to be an ex-orphan raised by the late Miss Tour and Miss Coat unveils the characteristic of real wickedness which fell “down, into evil”. Our John Doe discloses the secret of Boonstra’s, Broadbent and Errol’s profligate and iniquitous life, a reason that pushed him/her to finally speak up. Our Samaritan has chosen the nickname of Amian.

    Amian says:
    “I should just like to clarify further [John Doe’s] post. The two dear ladies [they] knew and respected, who brought up their (Moroccan) family in Ain Leuh from 1951 until approximately 1997, had nothing to do with the Village of Hope group which was recently expelled. As John Doe indicates, these ladies (Miss Doran and Miss Coats) were much loved and respected locally. They did not set out to acquire any children, but after some years eventually accepted that God wanted them to bring up those given over to them by loving Moroccan parents in difficulty. They never solicited money or publicised their Ain Leuh family in any way. They always welcomed the children’s natural relatives. They wanted those of their children who still had need to be able to remain in the family home after their deaths, but it was taken over by Village of Hope ten years ago, and at the time that VoH was expelled, none of those remaining original children were being allowed to live on the property – not even in humble shacks – despite the pleas of their older siblings living elsewhere (totally ignored).

    VoH had long pulled down their family home and built big villas on the land, hugely luxurious compared with the relative poverty of many of their Moroccan neighbours.
    The kindest thing one can say about VoH is that their crass insensitivity beggars belief – that one of their personnel was observed peddling VoH calendars at Miss Doran’s funeral in 2007, in full view of her grieving adult Moroccan children, is entirely characteristic. Whatever may be the political rights and wrongs of the present situation, it really is not surprising that the VoH was told to leave, or that many of the local villagers seem glad to see the back of them. The subsequent international outcry and protest encouraged by VoH has done nothing but harm. Some of us who used to live there previously have asked them and their ‘supporters’ to cease doing this for the sake of other vulnerable folk who may remain, but in their apparent arrogance they have ignored these requests. It is upsetting and frustrating that VoH, headed by Herman Boonstra, constantly traded on the reputations of Miss Doran and Miss Coats for its own ends, wrongly claiming that these two wonderful ladies ‘started’ the VoH in 1951, and openly putting up a plaque there with their pictures on, without their permission or that of their Moroccan children. Miss Doran and Miss Coats had the utmost respect for the Moroccan authorities. They would have been deeply distressed by the actions of VoH and its supporters, and we can only be grateful that they were and are unaware of these.”

  17. Hamza Boonstrha

    latest news about ex-Village of hope orphans

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