Persecution of Non-Muslims (Morocco)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

Series of suicide bombings in Casablanca aimed at a Jewish cemetery, Jewish community center, Jewish/Italian restaurants, and the Belgian consulate, kills 45 people and wounds over a 100 more[edit]

The 2003 Casablanca bombings were a series of suicide bombings on May 16, 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco. The attacks were the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country's history. 45 people were killed as a result of these attacks (12 suicide-bombers and 33 victims). The suicide bombers came from the shanty towns of Sidi Moumen, a poor suburb of Casablanca, and were from the Salafia Jihadia group [an offshoot of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and believed to have al-Qaeda links].

The 14 bombers, most between 20 and 23 years old, bombed several places on the night of May the 16th. In the deadliest attack, bombers wearing explosives knifed a guard at the "Casa de España" restaurant, a Spanish-owned eatery in the city. They blew themselves up inside the building, killing 20 people, many of them dining and playing bingo.

The five-star Hotel Farah was bombed next, killing a guard and a porter. Another bomber killed three passersby as he attempted to bomb a Jewish cemetery. He was 150 yards (140 m) away from the cemetery and likely lost, so he blew up by a fountain. Two additional bombers attacked a Jewish community center, but killed no one because the building was closed and empty. It would have been packed the next day.

Another bomber attacked a Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, and another blew up near the Belgian consulate which is located meters away from the restaurant, killing two police officers.

In all, 12 bombers died, along with 33 civilians. Two bombers were arrested before they could carry out attacks. More than 100 people were injured. Eight of the dead were Europeans (three Spanish among them) and the rest were Moroccan.

A number of Islamic extremists were subsequently convicted of the bombings. In April 2008 nine of the prisoners tunneled their way out of prison. Abderrahim Mahtade, who represents a prisoners’ advocacy group, said the fugitives had escaped from the Kenitra prison, north of Rabat, after dawn prayers. He said one of the nine had been sentenced to death, six to life imprisonment and two to 20 years.
2003 Casablanca bombings
Wikipedia, accessed May 1, 2013

64-year-old German tourist of Egyptian origin is jailed for six months in Agadir and fined 500 dirhams for trying to "shake the faith of a Muslim"[edit]

A Moroccan court jailed a German tourist for six months for attempting to convert Muslims in the southern resort of Agadir, officials said on Wednesday.

The court in Agadir, Morocco's main tourist destination, found the 64-year-old man guilty of trying to "shake the faith of a Muslim," they added.

The court also fined him 500 dirhams ($60) in its verdict issued late on Tuesday.

Court officials named the German of Egyptian origin as Sadek Noshi Yassa, who was arrested last week as he was distributing books and CDs about the Christian faith to young Muslim Moroccans in the street, the officials said.

Under Moroccan law "anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion" can be jailed for up to six months and fined.

The verdict came after local media reports that some Christians had launched a clandestine campaign to convert thousands of Muslim Moroccans to Christianity.

There are about 20,000 expatriate Christians in Morocco, most of them living in Rabat and Casablanca, according to estimates by European diplomats.

Five female tourists (four Spanish and one German) arrested by police while gathered for Bible study in Casablanca. Officials seize study material, interrogate and detain them till the next day before deporting them[edit]

Five female Christians, four Spanish and one German, were recently expelled from Morocco on accusations of "proselytizing" Muslims. According to a March 31 report from Compass Direct, the women were among a group of tourists who were arrested by police while gathered for Bible study in the city of Casablanca on March 28. Officials seized Christian material, including Arabic books and videos. The believers were questioned by police and detained until the early hours of the next day. The women, who were deemed missionaries by the government, were deported to Spain.
Five Christians expelled
VOM, April 1, 2009

Freedom activist campaigning to change law that criminalizes eating in public during Ramadan fast receives 100 death threats in a week, six of his colleagues are arrested and held in custody[edit]

A Moroccan man campaigning to change the law banning eating in public during the Muslim Ramadan fast says he has received 100 death threats this week.

Radi Omar denied that his group was anti-Islam. "We are in favour of individual freedom," he told the BBC.

Six of his colleagues are in custody after planning to eat in public last Sunday and he demanded their release.

Mr Omar said they were being well treated but he assumed they were not being fed during the fasting hours.

The group, known as the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (Mali), has more than 1,200 members on its Facebook site.

They planned a public defiance of the law at the train station in Mohammedia near Casablanca last Sunday but were dispersed by the police.

The protesters were prevented from eating and so should not have been detained, Mr Omar said, adding that they have not been charged.

Under Moroccan law, eating in public during the hours of daylight, when Muslims are supposed to observe a fast, can lead to a fine and up to six months in prison.
Threats for breaking Morocco fast
BBC News, September 18, 2009

The founder of the Movement for alternative civil liberties (MALI), the group behind the non-fasters demonstration, "disappears". Human rights groups concerned[edit]

Zineb El-Rahzoui’s disappearance, Thursday, has innondated the Moroccan media. For some six days now, members of her family and the Moroccan Association of Human Rights are desperately seeking the founder of the Movement for alternative civil liberties (MALI). September 13, the activist took part in a "non-fasters" demonstration in Morocco to protest against a law that punishes "public non-observation of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan."

Zineb El Rhazoui is nowhere to be found. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) has had "no news" of the Franco-Moroccan journalist since Thursday. She is suspected of being the brain behind a failed "non-fasters” demonstration during the Ramadan fasting month in Morocco. Zineb El Rhazoui is a member of the Movement for alternative civil liberties (MALI). September 13, the group organised a picnic in a wooded area close to Mohammedia, to break their fast in the afternoon. Their goal was to denounce a Moroccan law that punishes "public non-observance of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan." Article 222 of Morocco’s Penal Code states that "any Moroccan Muslim who publicly violates (the fast) is punishable by six months in prison and a fine," while another outrightly bans de-conversion from Islam.

Referring the case to the Department of Justice, the president of AMDH said, "it is not known whether she disappeared in an illegal manner or if she is hiding to avoid the tension associated with her recent activities”. Before her disappearance, five of the six young members of MALI who also campaigned for the abrogation of Act 222 were summoned for questioning by the Moroccan police. Zineb El-Rhazoui, who was also summoned Thursday at Mohammedia, has not been seen since. The authorities cliam not to "know where she is."

Ibdtisam Lachgar, one of Zineb’s close friends who had communicated with her by mail and telephone, told AFP Sunday that "Zineb did not know whether or not to honour the police summon". According to Lachgar, "her phone has been switched off” since. She also told the AFP that Zineb had told her that, given the outcome of the case, she preferred “not to see anybody". "I do not want to show myself… I think I’ll stay put in an apartment”, Zineb told her friend.

Following the affair, several Moroccan newspapers wrote frenzied articles denouncing the group’s “virulent” acts. On the front page of the September 16 edition of the Al-Alam, a local newspaper that belongs to the Istiqlal Party (also the Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi’s party), an editorial read: "They don’t belong with us”. Besides the libellous headlines, members of MALI received death threats via the Internet, indicated a communiqué from Human Rights Watch. September 15, an official newspaper published a statement from the Provincial Council of Mohammedia Ulemas (doctors of Islamic law), in which they denounced the picnic organised by "the agitators" as an "abhorrent" act that "defies the teachings of God and the prophet with all the severe sanctions it would bring about."
Morocco-France: Mysterious disappearance of an anti-fasting journalist
Stephanie Plasse, AFRIK-News, September 23, 2009

Amid nationwide campaign vilifying Christians, authorities expel 128 in an effort to purge the country of any "foreign Christian influences". 7,000 Muslim leaders back deportations of "religious terrorists" and "moral rapists"[edit]

Proselytism in Morocco is generally defined as using means of seduction or exploiting weakness to undermine the faith of Muslims or to convert them to another religion.

Recently Morocco has used the law to punish any proclamation of non-Muslim faith, contradicting its pledge to allow freedom to manifest one’s faith under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory. Article 18 of the covenant affirms the right to manifest one’s faith in worship, observance, practice or teaching.

The covenant also states, however, that “freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

There are an estimated 1,000 Moroccan Christian converts in the country. They are not recognized by the government. About 99 percent of Morocco’s population of more than 33 million is Muslim.

Between March and June authorities expelled 128 foreign Christians in an effort to purge the country of any foreign Christian influences. In April nearly 7,000 Muslim religious leaders backed the deportations by signing a document describing the work of Christians within Morocco as “moral rape” and “religious terrorism.” The statement from the religious leaders came amid a nationwide mudslinging campaign geared to vilify Christians in Morocco for “proselytism” – widely perceived as bribing people to change their faith.

In the same time period, Moroccan authorities applied pressure on Moroccan converts to Christianity through interrogations, searches and arrests. Christians on the ground said that, although these have not continued, there is still a general sense that the government is increasingly intolerant of Christian activities.

“They are feeling very bad,” said Rachid. “I spoke to several of them, and they say things are getting worse…They don’t feel safe. They are under a lot of disappointment, and [they are] depressed because the government is putting all kinds of pressure on them.”
Moroccan Convert Serving 15 Years for His Faith
The Christian Post, September 18, 2010

A Jewish couple (including a pregnant women), a Brit, and two French people are among 14 killed in a suicide bomb attack in a popular tourist cafe in Marrakesh[edit]

A British national and two French people are among 14 killed in a suicide bomb attack in a popular tourist cafe in Marrakesh, according to reports by French newspaper Le Figaro.

Evidence collected from the scene of an explosion on Thursday in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh confirms it was a bomb attack, the interior ministry said.

"Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast that occurred on Thursday at a cafe in Marrakesh confirms the theory of an attack," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.

The blast in the iconic Jamaa el-Fna square is Morocco's deadliest bombing in eight years.
. . .
Morocco's interior ministry said the explosion appeared to be a "criminal act", according to the state news agency MAP.

Portuguese tourist Alexandre Carvalho, a 34-year-old call centre worker from southern Portugal said: "I had just arrived at the square, the area where most cafes are located.

"Suddenly I heard this massive explosion, I had my back turned to it, I turned around to see it the explosion had happened on the veranda of a cafe.

"There were at least 10 injured people, lots of debris, things flying up in the air. I saw people in a panic running towards the area with fire extinguishers, some people being carried away. I believe the injured were mostly tourists, judging by what they were wearing."
A Jewish couple were among more than a dozen people killed in an explosion Thursday in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Massoud Weizman, 32, and his wife Michal, 30, lived in Shanghai, China, but were visiting Massoud’s parents in Casablanca for Passover. They apparently dropped by the cafe overlooking Marrakesh’s Jamaa el-Fnaa square just before the bomb exploded. The spot is popular with tourists; 10 of those killed were foreigners. Authorities are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Michal, who is an Israeli citizen, was pregnant.

Morrocco’s King Mohammed VI has ordered an investigation into the bombing. The country's last major terrorist attack was in 2003. The king reportedly has arranged for a charter flight to fly family members from Morocco to Israel, where the young couple will be laid to rest on Monday.

The Weizmans were actively involved in Shanghai’s ex-pat Jewish community, Rabbi Sholom Greenberg, head of Chabad of Shanghai, told lubavitch.com. Michal was on the parents’ committee at the Jewish preschool attended by the couple’s three-year-old son David Yosef, and Massoud was a regular at the center’s Torah study classes.

“We lost very precious people. The entire community is in shock. Messod and Michal were very special and beautiful people with the kindest of hearts and purest of souls. They were a sincere young couple with an open home,” Greenberg told reporters.

David Yosef was with his grandparents when his parents were killed.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a man carrying a bag entering the cafe right before the explosion. Other witnesses told reporters the man was a suicide bomber. The explosion ripped through the first and second floors of the building, and body parts were found scattered throughout the wreckage.

23-year-old's public declaration of atheism results in outraged demonstrations, secret interrogations, and uncountable death threats. Fearing his safety, he flees his home and is granted political asylum in Switzerland[edit]

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting on Wednesday, famed Arab atheist Kacem al-Ghazzali took the floor. At the microphone, he offered his listeners a brief account of his life after coming out of the religious closet; his public admission of atheism in 2010 shook the world around him, resulting in outraged demonstrations, secret interrogations, and uncountable death threats. Fearing his safety, al-Ghazzali fled his home in Morocco and sought asylum in Switzerland, where he currently resides.

Only twenty-three, al-Ghazzali writes and asks the tough, yet invaluably important, questions. He closes his short speech at the UN with one such question: “Why does [Morocco’s] constitution insist that anyone with an Islamic name must be a Muslim?” This question of identity is one that members of the Arab community, especially those disenchanted with religion, wrestle with on a daily basis. Al-Ghazzali continues to prove himself an important voice for the Arab youth and for atheists everywhere.
Case in Point: Arab, not Muslim
Free Arabs, March 14, 2013