Should Morocco Have a State Religion?

The state, any state, should be for all people of all religious persuasions, and the state should never bear the imprimatur of any one religious ideology, says Mustapha Ajbaili.

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Moroccan journalist and writer. 6 comments

Sunday, November 14th, 2010


Some people are discomfited to hear or read that no religion, like no mind, enjoys a monopoly on truth and on justice. As in other places, people in Morocco, diverse and heterogeneous, should engage in dialogue, and no one should feel left behind, betrayed, ignored or unrecognized by the law and by the governing institutions that represent only one segment of the populace.

Despite the exclusionary nature of governing institutions, Moroccan society enjoys diversity in religions and in religious practices. Although it is estimated that about 99.7 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, dozens of subgroups within the Sunni Islamic tradition are found in Morocco, and differences between them can be as dangerously profound as between any two separate religions. Morocco also has sizeable Jewish and Christian populations. It is worthy to note that many converts from
Islam to other faiths remain in the shadow and are seldom recognized.

In many regions, the people who are classified as Sunni Muslims can be found worshiping their own idols referred to as marabout, with shrines often called “sidi” for male saints, and “lalla” for female saints. For certain radicals of the Salafi Sunni school of thought, people who visit shrines for prayers can sometimes be accused of apostasy, which requires that they be punished.

This shows that dangerous differences exist even within certain religious sub-groups. So, it is unwise for a state that claims to allow religious freedom to adopt an official religion, for it would no doubt discriminate against its people and promote religious and ideological tensions.

In Morocco this has been happening for decades since the governing regime began courting Islamists to fight against a growing threat from communists, and when Islamists grew in power they turned against the state, terrorizing its power base. As practiced in Morocco, religion is used as a pawn.

Anyone with deep religious convictions should be bothered by use of religion – theirs and others’ – as a pawn in political games. Those committed to the teachings of any of the major religions should object to use of their belief system as a tool to play one side against another.

The state, any state, should be for all people of all religious persuasions, and the state should never bear the imprimatur of any one religious ideology.

This, of course, still is contrary to what we have in Morocco, because we as Moroccans have thus far failed to learn from the history of nations and to examine with an open mind some of the bold choices made by certain nations, such as Turkey for example.

The Moroccan constitution says that “Islam shall be the state religion. The state shall guarantee freedom of worship for all.” It is under this statement—though blatantly unjust and unworkable as it is– that most of Morocco’s religious affairs are supposedly regulated…but they are
not. Under this constitutional statement, anyone should have the freedom to worship anything, yet this is not the case in Morocco. The statement is often understood within the government and its coercive machineries as the right for Muslims to practice Islam, for Jews to practice Judaism and for Christians to practice Christianity. Practicing any other faith or converting from Islam to another religion is most often suppressed rather
than protected.

In March 2010, the Moroccan government expelled dozens of American Christians for allegedly secretly spreading Christianity among the poor. It is certainly unethical to exploit people’s biological needs in attempt to convert them from one religion to another for I believe religion should be a matter of personal conviction. But is it illegal for someone to do so? Libya’s Gaddafi does it in sub-Sahara Africa! In Morocco we don’t know if this is illegal because the government often in such cases does not follow the due process of law and instead expels suspects without trial. There is a deep feeling of insecurity within the state about its institutions, including the Justice system that was supposed to uphold the law.

How about when someone is of Moroccan nationality and the government can not expel him or her like members of the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI) that is calling for freedom not to fast in Ramadan. In such cases, government uses its repressive tools to silence, threaten or jail them under fabricated charges of disturbing public order and of the like.

In Morocco we have a government that is paranoid and lost. It is lost between an orthodox love for authority and power and its international commitments to ensure the rule of law and improve the status of human rights and the state of democracy.

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Posted on Sunday, November 14th, 2010

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6 comments on “Should Morocco Have a State Religion?”

  1. “It is certainly unethical to exploit people’s biological needs in attempt to convert them from one religion to another”

    How so? A religion is nothing but an ideology. Some are more moral than others (and the best so far is secular humanism). If we have to bribe people so they stop believing in silly supernatural entities, it has to be done. That’s the way shintoism was restrained and cannibalism or slavery eradicated.

    What is unethical is the state-monopoly on religion.


  2. Religion should be a matter of personal conviction for adults, not for innocent children.

    I think the Moroccan government have done the right thing when they expelled those Ameirican christians simply because they took advantage of the poor conditions those children were living in so as to convert them into christianity.

    I am quite sure the Moroccan government would not have decided to expel the Christian had those targeted been adults, not children.

    And do not forget that Morocco is no exception when it comes to protecting children from conversion.

    Regards


    • Religion should be a matter of personal conviction for adults, not for innocent children.

      You say that…and yet you have no qualms about using the taxpayer’s money to force “innocent children” to mindlessly learn and recite the Quran.

      I am quite sure the Moroccan government would not have decided to expel the Christian had those targeted been adults, not children.

      Your speculations are irrelevant.

      The fact is (you know what F-A-C-T-S are, don’t you?) that article 220 targets anyone guilty of “shaking the faith” of a person known to be Muslim. Without specifying what shaking the faith means, or addressing the issue of who’s Muslim and who isn’t.

      And do not forget that Morocco is no exception when it comes to protecting children from conversion.

      This appeal to common practice fallacy is particularly ludicrous given that:

      1) No democratic country has laws against teaching people about mythology. Proselytism, in the way such countries as Switzerland view it, is the act of aggressively pushing a viewpoint (a sort of IRL spamming if you will).

      2) Those kids are not Muslims anymore than they are Communists!


      • Fawzi,

        All muslims are forced to learn the Quran, fast in Ramadan, and wear the hijab or nigab, etc. These are, for me, mere misconcetions and rumors. I do not need to let you know of the sources of such rumors.

        If the targeted people had been grown-ups, the Moroccan government could have turned to other solutions rather than expulsion. This is what I meant when I wrote that “I am quite sure the Moroccan government would not have decided to expel the Christians had those targeted been adults, not children.”

        I am sure you know the difference between teaching children about Christianity and trying to convert them into Christianity taking advantage of their bad living conditions. To know about a certain religion does not mean one is one of its believers. In brief, those American Christians were not expelled because they were repoted teaching those children Christianity.

        Posting comments using fake names is not an attribute of liberals and secularists.

        Regards


  3. All muslims are forced to learn the Quran, fast in Ramadan, and wear the hijab or nigab, etc. These are, for me, mere misconcetions and rumors. I do not need to let you know of the sources of such rumors.

    Oh, please…do tell.

    While you’re at it, how about the “crimes” of “blasphemy” and “apostasy”? How about the sexist inheritance laws? Are those misconceptions and rumors too?

    If the targeted people had been grown-ups, the Moroccan government could have turned to other solutions rather than expulsion.

    If they were Americans citizens, I don’t see anything else they could have done.

    If they were Moroccans, there would have been some torture, abuse and jail-time involved.

    I am sure you know the difference between teaching children about Christianity and trying to convert them into Christianity taking advantage of their bad living conditions.

    No I don’t know the difference. Enlighten me. Do these evil Evangelists use violence or the threat of violence to convert people?

    And how can you call it a conversion when they are children? Do you believe those children are “Muslims” by birth? Do you not see that forcing children to espouse (if not adhere) a creed is abusive?

    How do Mohammedan myths and superstitions have more rights to be pushed onto Moroccan children than any other myth and superstition? I’ll tell you how…the state religion that promotes an ideological monopoly!

    To know about a certain religion does not mean one is one of its believers. In brief, those American Christians were not expelled because they were repoted teaching those children Christianity.

    C’mon now…the only charge the Moroccan government had against them was that they read the children the life story of Jesus.

    Posting comments using fake names is not an attribute of liberals and secularists.

    I didn’t know that. In which rulebook did you find that posting semi-anonymously precludes me from calling myself a secularist?

    I used my real name to comment on Islam before. All it got me are threats and professional exclusion. I criticize Christianity, Judaism and Voodoo on a daily basis publicly and I never received a single threat for doing so.


  4. Bouchra Kachoub

    This article has good insights on religion in Morocco. I extend my thanks to the writer for his wonderful job.
    In its constitution preamble and articles, Morocco uses a fuzzy language. An annex to the constitution would be a great thing to have, as it would clear lots of ambiguities. The Preamble states that Morocco is “an Islamic and fully sovereign state”. In the same line, Article 6 in Chapter 1 decrees that “Islam shall be the state religion. The state shall guarantee freedom of worship for all”. This freedom of worship tells me that people are free to either worship or not to worship. So, those who prefer not to worship, are they allowed to worship something else since they are left with another option? Also, Article 106 in Chapter 12 rejects any revision to religious prescriptions. This article seems to protect religion the way the state uses religion to protect itself. No matter how much talk one can have on this topic, state and religion, at the end of the day this remains something personal. When people worship God, there is no mediator between them and they do not do that through the state either.
    A state without religion is hard to find in today’s world. Even countries who claim that they are secular, practice religion in a semi-formal way. Take the United Stated as an example. There is no God in schools. It is almost a taboo there. However, it is present if we think about presidential elections (who was chosen and giving the oath…etc).


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