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
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.