Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco: Comments About Islam Spark Firestorm

Casablanca — Moroccan activist Ahmed Assid has unleashed a torrent of criticism, including a takfir fatwa from a leading salafist preacher, for making controversial comments about Islam.

During a three-day seminar at the 10th national congress of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) in Rabat, which ended on April 21st, Assid suggested that religious school textbooks lured youths to violence.

To call [upon people] to follow Islam by the use of violence and constraint is an act of terrorism," he said.

Assid should be sued for insulting the prophet and ridiculing Islam, salafist preacher Sheikh Mohammed Fizazi said during a lecture at Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra.

Yet the strongest reaction came from Sheikh Hassan Kettani, who accused Assid of kufr. In describing him as a "criminal" and "enemy of God", Kettani issued a call for "silencing his voice".

In a statement posted on Facebook, Kettani said that Assid had "crossed all lines in provoking Moroccans in particular and the ummah of Islam in general by deliberately insulting and desecrating each and every one of their sanctities".

"In his impudence, he [Assid] went as far as to claim that the Quran contains no eloquence, ridiculing and underestimating the language of Quran," Kettani's statement went on.

Assid later defended his comments.

"The thing that attracts attention is the violent, uncivilised nature of this campaign that lacks the simplest values of dialogue and right to different opinions, and thus seeks to consolidate a culture that we don't need here in Morocco, that is the culture of confiscation, of trial, incitement and threats, et cetera," Assid told Magharebia.

"These are very negative matters that we as viable forces believing in democracy have to fight," he said. "There will always be differences, but we nevertheless must continue to engage in dialogue, debates and rapprochement,"

He said his words at the AMDH seminar were distorted and taken out of context.

"The words of anyone may not be construed so as to destroy him and incite others against him in such a serious manner," Assid said. " We have to refute arguments with arguments, which is the best option for the Moroccan experience."

Nevertheless, Abdelbari Zemzami, who heads Morocco's Research and Jurisprudence Studies Society, lambasted Assid for provoking Moroccans and Muslims the world over.

"No Muslim would accept what Assid said, and if his words weren't actually construed as he said them, let him come out and correct them and show us what exactly he wanted to say," Zemzami told Magharebia.

Meanwhile, the Moroccan Coalition of Human Rights Groups demanded that the government intervene urgently to put an end to takfir fatwas being issued on people like Assid and journalist Mokhtar el-Ghzioui and calling for their blood.

"Assid has expressed his opinion that the current school curricula may help spread violence and hatred," said Khadija Ryadi, the coalition's coordinator. "After that, he was threatened by intolerant groups."

"The state has to confront all of these fatwas firmly and seriously, using all legal and media means," Ryadi added.

Indeed, the law in Morocco "prevails over the opinions of religious leaders", Islamic Affairs Minister Ahmed Toufiq told the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Representatives last Tuesday.

Morocco's Criminal Code does not penalise apostasy, he added.

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