Sunday, June 13, 2010
Anti-Obama lobby throws Morocco to the wolves
The Morocco Board reports that in the US, House of Representatives Tom Lantos, Human Rights Commission, which is chaired by James McGovern (Democrat, Maryland) with ranking Republican congressman Frank Wolf (Republican, Virginia), will hold a hearing on human rights and religious freedom in Morocco on Thursday June 17th, 2010.
The hearing will be open to the press and the public. The reason for the hearings, according to the commission, is the deportation of approximately 40 American citizens and scores of other foreign nationals on charges of proselytism, thus “it has raised serious concerns about the status of religious freedom in Morocco”.
The individuals deported, according to a statement from the commission, ran a wide array of humanitarian organisations, which provided services vital to the community. One of the organisations targeted was the Village of Hope, an orphanage that takes in children that have been abandoned by their parents (see our story here).
A statement from the commission cited an article by Time Magazine that said, “The Village of Hope deportations are part of what appears to be a widespread crackdown on Christian aid workers in Morocco.”
Also cited as an example is the Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Report, which noted “a backsliding in Morocco on a host of other democracy and human rights issues over the course of the last year”.
Republican Frank Wolf spearheaded the hearings. He is a long time critic of Morocco and a proponent of Algeria-backed Western Sahara Separatists; he is also considered to be a friend of the Christian Fundamentalist lobby on the Hill.
According to local sources, congressman Frank Wolf has recently met with representatives of Morocco in Washington. During the meeting he became so irritated and furious that he shouted at the Moroccans who were taken aback by the intensity of the Congressman’s emotions. He also threatened, during the meeting, to work to cancel the US Morocco free trade agreement and he flatly stated that Morocco is “no friend of the US”.
Later on, when a fellow Christian fundamentalist leader and a friend of Morocco called on the congressman to inquire about the issue, the congressman was again furious and called the Christian leader a “traitor” for sympathizing with Morocco. The congressman subsequently called on US State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton to cancel Morocco’s Share of the $700m Millennium Fund.
The witnesses that are invited to speak on the hill are Katie Zoglin, senior program manager of Freedom House, Michael Cloud, president of Association Nichan, Herman Boonstra, leader of the Village of Hope in Ain Leuh , Morocco, Mr. & Mrs. Eddie and Lynn Padilla, foster parents at the Village of Hope and Dr. Sandra Bunn-Livingstone, executive director of Jus Cogens LLC.
The hearings will take place at the 2325 Rayburn House Office Building at 1-3 p.m. on June 17th, 2010.
Our politics correspondent, Ibn Warraq, has this to say about the hearings:
Morocco is an Islamic society, with the King as defender of the faith. When people of other faiths come to Morocco to work in NGOs or aid organisations, they sign a paper declaring that they will not proselytise. These Christians broke the law - it's as simple as that. Why doesn't the US hold a similar hearing for Saudi Arabia? I imagine they wouldn't be too keen on evangelising Christians, either.
By holding this hearing, the US risks alienating one of its few moderate Muslim allies and playing into the hands of the Islamists, who will use it as an example of how the Americans are trying to take over Morocco with Christianity and need to be actively resisted. It's a very stupid move.
It also does not seem fair that the hearing doesn't appear to include testimony from the Moroccan point of view.
A small incident with inflexible American missionaries knowingly violating Moroccan law should not overshadow more than 200 years of good relations between Morocco and America.
The United States should show respect for Morocco's Islamic religious beliefs, while recognizing that Morocco has long respected the rights of Christians and Jews to maintain and practise (but not proselytize) their religious beliefs.
Good relations with Morocco are essential to good relations with the Arab World.
Morocco is an essential ally in the "War on Terror."
Morocco has played an instrumental role in attempting to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
As a valued ally of the United States, Morocco should be subject to gentle persuasion from the United States on the issue of religious freedom, not condemnation. If the Congressman thinks that Morocco has not acted appropriately, he should approach the Moroccans from the point of view of a counselor to a dear but misguided friend, not as an enemy.
Let's take a look at this congressman Wolf. It is disturbing to think that someone in his position thinks he gains credibility when he says he supports groups such as the Algerian-backed Western Sahara Separatists. In addition, his links with Christian Fundamentalist lobby groups should immediately set alarm bells ringing. Let us all remember that fundamentalism of any kind, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish or Christian, is a problem we all need to deal with.
Freedom of speech is a right Congressman Wolf enjoys, but he needs to remember that with such a right comes responsibility to use that freedom wisely. Sadly there is no sign that he has an interest in anything other than destabilising Obama.