Does Freedom of Religion Exist in Morocco?

Hind says Morocco can not be compared to Western countries, because each country has its own cultural and historical singularities. Everything can not change overnight, but everything changes with time she explains.

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Writer, blogger and journalist 2 comments

Sunday, November 14th, 2010


Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to practice his or her religion freely and in public.

According to the Constitution, Morocco is a Muslim state. Islam is an important component of the Moroccan identity indeed. Thanks to the teachings of Islam, the various cultural and religious elements of the Moroccan society managed to successfully and harmoniously coexist. History shows that Morocco is a model in the way it has brought civilizations and various faiths together on its soil and for hundreds of years.

The fact Moroccan Jews still live side by side today with Moroccan Muslims, share the same culture and customs since millennia is best proof for that. The Moroccan judiciary for example, permits the Jewish community to have special offices within Moroccan courts where Jewish judges deal with issues such as marriage, divorce, inheritance. Moroccan Jews, and according to their own admission, are probably amongst the few ones in the world still allowed to rule by their holy book, the Torah, in matters such as those mentioned above.

This, of course, couldn’t have been possible without the Islamic Shariah, which urges for the respect of the beliefs of the People of the Book. Furthermore, the Islamic religion teaches us to respect the freedoms of others and not to coerce people into one’s own belief:

“There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.” Surah Al-Baqara – verse 256.

“Had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe.” Surah Yunus – Verse 99.

Instances of tolerance, coexistence and respect for others’ beliefs are countless and varied in Islam and there is an estimated one hundred verses dealing with this very matter, present in more than thirty-six chapters, not to mention the Prophet’s (peace be upon Him) biography and tradition.

As for the expulsion from Morocco of Christian evangelists it was a matter of Law and ethics since those who were targeted by the missionaries were helpless children and orphans who, by virtue of being born in Morocco and under its Constitution, were to be considered Muslims. They were still at an age that does not yet allow them to choose.

The incident was not the first on record in Morocco: In the 17th century, and according to historical documents, [King Mohammed bin Abdullah Alaoui, founder of the city of Essaouira, sent an urgent missive to the city’s governor]: “the Jewish dhimmi community of the city of Essaouira enjoyed privileges provided to it by Islamic Law, which also protected it from attempts of conversion by Christian missionaries. The issue was brought to Our attention by prominent Jewish traders who operate in the port of Essaouira. They say the missionaries who newly arrived into the city conspired to infiltrate their community and corrupt their poor children who were urged to abandon their religion, and were offered money. They pursued their proselytizing entreprise untill they brought about two hundred of them, boys and girls, and started teaching them their readings and offered to protect them and asked them to leave their homes. I want you to speak with their Bashador and do whatever you need to do to keep them away from Our blessed lands.” (1)

Everyone knows that there are a lot of Christian missionaries operating in Morocco. They have succeded in converting many citizens of this country. Morocco does not work to expel them all or even to block their websites because those who are over the age of majority are free to embrace the religion they want. Some of those who converted say they are reluctant to disclose their Christianity in public. But that is only a matter of customs and traditions because Moroccans accept Christian foreigners and Jewish Moroccans, but are not yet used to Moroccan Christians. In comparison, Arab and Islamic countries in the Middle East, for example, are more keen to accept the Christian Arabs, but I do not think they will accept a Jewish Egyptian or Lebanese or Syrian or Jordanian. Again, it is a matter of cultural and political sensitivities.

The fact that some Moroccans broke the fast in public last Ramadan didn’t bring any legal action against them, contrary to what the neighboring country [Algeria] did when it imprisonned Christians on charges of breaking the fast in public before dusk during the holy month. It is a historic fact that fasting during Ramadan was never enforced on any Christian.

In 2008, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor (U.S. Department of State) reported that Morocco continues to encourage tolerance and to enhance dialogue between religious groups. The report also noted that Jewish and Christian communities were able to practice their beliefs openly, pointing out that the Moroccan authorities granted fiscal privileges, allocated plots of land and offered tax credits for imported materials necessary for the activities of large religious groups especially Jews and Christians.

Moroccan Law also protects places of worship from [external] violence and guaranties the possibility to worship openly and/or privately, as it is clearly provided by the Constitution and the Penal Code, both drafted shortly after the country’s independence in 1956. In any case, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by Morocco, states that everyone has the right to exercise his or her religion openly.

According to a report issued in 2010 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a U.S. organization monitoring religions and minorities’ rights in the world, Morocco has 33 places of worship [for non Muslims], which is far more than any other Arab country, and which denotes the freedom to practice religious rites enjoyed by religious minorities. The report also noted that non-Muslims lived amongst Muslim populations and that they were able to practice their religion in public.

In Morocco as in other countries across the globe religion is often used to conceal the real motives behind many political conflicts. Politics are behind many of the seemingly cultural, ethnic and ideological conflicts we see around us. It’s time to work together wisely and respect each other. Any person, whether religious or non religious, before pleading for respect should ask her or himself whether he or she respects others; whether he or she respects the country where he or she lives; whether he or she respects the rights of the majority before asking for the rights of the minority. Morocco can not be Germany or Turkey or America, because each country has its own cultural and historical singularities. Everything can not change overnight, but everything changes with time and anyone who wants to drag Morocco into a conflict of religions and civilizations, I will beg him or her to read the history of Morocco and the traditions of Moroccans in order to discover that we are an open society that accepts others, but that knows how to face every problem. We have so far always emerged victorious.

1: ”Mohammed bin Abdullah and the Building of the City of Essaouira” by Dr. Abdul Karim Karim, Faculty of Literature, Rabat.

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Translated by Hisham from هل يوجد في المغرب حرية دينية وعقائدية؟

Posted on Sunday, November 14th, 2010

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2 comments on “Does Freedom of Religion Exist in Morocco?”

  1. Thanks to the teachings of Islam, the various cultural and religious elements of the Moroccan society managed to successfully and harmoniously coexist.

    In what parallel universe? Any harmonious coexistence was driven by the built-in reciprocity in human nature. That is to say, despite of Islam!

    History shows that Morocco is a model in the way it has brought civilizations and various faiths together on its soil and for hundreds of years.

    Nonsense! For “hundreds of years” now, pagan rituals as well as any criticism of Islam have been violently targeted.

    The fact Moroccan Jews still live side by side today with Moroccan Muslims, share the same culture and customs since millennia is best proof for that.

    Revisionist history! Pogroms were the norm. The most horrifying took place in 1033 and 1465. But Jews were targeted by their Muslim overlords throughout the country’s history. Gruesome tales of mobs cutting stomach’s open to find the Jewish “hidden gold” or the story of the sanctified 16-year old Solika are all firmly grounded in reality.

    Also worth noting is the fact that Jews were kept in ghettos called the mellah in reference to the demeaning task of “salting” the heads of the assassinated rebels that they were forced to carry out.

    Moroccan Jews, and according to their own admission, are probably amongst the few ones in the world still allowed to rule by the their holy book, the Torah, in the matters mentioned above.

    Moroccan Jews, dear Hind, would rather live in a secular state than under this Islamic state.

    “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.” Surah Al-Baqara – verse 256.

    Ya-da-ya-da…how about quoting the posterior verses that effectively supersede the goody bits?

    Instances of tolerance, coexistence and respect for others’ beliefs are countless and varied in Islam and there is an estimated one hundred verses dealing with this very matter, present in in more than thirty-six chapters, not to mention the Prophet’s (peace be upon Him) biography and tradition.

    And by that, you mean enslaving whole tribes, slaughtering in the name of Allah, breaking every statue or idol around…

    Some tolerance!

    As for the expulsion from Morocco of the Christian evangelists it was a matter of Law and ethics since those who were targeted by the missionaries were helpless children and orphans who, by virtue of being born in Morocco and under its Constitution, were to be considered Muslims.

    How is it ethical to consider “helpless children and orphans” Muslims? What sort of dumb morality is that? They’re kids. They’re no more Muslims than they are Communists, Nazis or Christians! Once they reach the age of reason, they can decide for themselves. But before that, they should pick freely the information that allows them to make an informed opinion. Not be brainwashed into a sordid cult, whether it be Islam or Christianity!

    They were still at an age that does not yet allow them to choose.

    This, right here, is the reason Islam has survived the last decades.

    the Jewish dhimmi community of the city of Essaouira enjoyed privileges provided to it by Islamic Law

    Fantastic! I never thought I would hear “dhimmi” and “privilege” in the same sentence.

    They say the missionaries who newly arrived into the city conspired to infiltrate their community and corrupt their poor children

    Are we supposed to believe teaching these kids about YHWH is more moral than teaching them about Jesus? A bunch of Rabbis were scared to lose their leverage to a bunch of Priests. Nothing to see here…

    Everyone knows that there are a lot of Christian missionaries operating in Morocco.

    And everyone knows that there are lot of alcohol-dealers selling drinks to “Muslims” in Morocco. That doesn’t change the fact that it is forbidden by law!

    Morocco does not work to expel them all or even to block their websites because those who are over the age of majority are free to embrace the religion they want.

    Bollocks! Morocco doesn’t allow a Muslim to convert to any other religion (or lack thereof).

    But that is only a matter of customs and traditions because Moroccans accept Christian foreigners and Jewish Moroccans, but are not yet used to Moroccan Christians.

    No. The L-A-W doesn’t accept them.

    but I do not think they will accept a Jewish Egyptian or Lebanese or Syrian or Jordanian

    Accept? They will eat them alive or burn them at the stake!

    Besides, do you have any idea about the extent of oppression the Christians in Arab countries suffer from? Do you know that they are barred from certain (if not all) public sectors? Do you know that a girl born to Muslim parents cannot marry a Christian?

    The fact that some Moroccans broke the fast in public last Ramadan didn’t bring any legal action against them, contrary to what the neighboring country [Algeria] did when it imprisonned Christians on charges of breaking the fast in public before dusk during the holy month.

    That’s not true. Algeria dealt with the matter upfront, and the civil society mobilized itself to set those non-fasters free and set a precedent!

    In Morocco, the only reason the civil society mobilizes itself is to ask for a lynching of the offenders (when it is taking a break from bashing Israel).

    Algerian society, because of its prolonged exposure to the French culture, has started its secularization long ago. We in Morocco are forbidden from doing so because of the monarchy.

    The report also noted that Jewish and Christian communities were able to practice their beliefs openly

    The report goes on to add: “For a Muslim country, that is…”

    And we all know how low the bar was set in that regard.

    Moroccan Law also protects places of worship from [external] violence and guaranties the possibility to worship openly and/or privately, as it is clearly provided by the Constitution and the Penal Code

    As usual, you deliberately omit the addendum that severely restricts freedom of religion.

    Do people forget that the North Korean constitution grants freedom of expression? Or that the Chinese constitution is multi-party friendly?

    In any case, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by Morocco, states that everyone has the right to exercise his or her religion openly

    I hate to break it to you, but the UDHR is anterior to Morocco.

    Also, Iran ratified it. It didn’t stop it from becoming a theocracy.

    Morocco has 33 places of worship [for non Muslims], which is far more than any other Arab country, and which denotes the freedom to practice religious rites enjoyed by religious minorities

    That’s the same Morocco that cracks down on shi’ite literature?

    In Morocco as in other countries across the globe religion is often used to conceal the real motives behind many political conflicts

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful” – Seneca

    Certain populations are lagging behind. Among teh educated, faith, has been obsolete for a while now.

    Any person, whether religious or non religious, before pleading for respect should ask her or himself whether he or she respects others

    First of all, you have to define what you mean by “respect”. If we are talking about physical integrity, then that’s a given and no civilized person would argue against it. But if you require me to treat myths and superstition with respect, then I disagree. I reserve the right to make fun of the people who believe in Santa Claus, Xenu, Allah, and the 9/11 conspiracy theory.

    The debate on this forum, as far as I know, should focus on state-intervention. People will do whatever it is they do. But under no circumstances should the state be allowed to meddle with religious affairs or hold a monopoly on spiritual matters.

    Morocco can not be Germany or Turkey or America,

    How do you know if you don’t try?

    because each country has its own cultural and historical singularities

    What you are ignoring, is that all countries have seen their culture evolve. Germany, Turkey (“America” is a continent, by the way) were all feudal societies at some point with analogous governance systems and state-religions as Morocco.

    I will beg him or her to read the history of Morocco and the traditions of Moroccans in order to discover that we are an open society

    How about you follow you own advice and get acquainted with the real history of Morocco?

    We have so far always emerged victorious.

    I’m assuming that by “we”, you mean the Muslim overlords.


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