Fez Court of Appeals acquits Christian convert
On Thursday the Court of Appeals in Fez acquitted Mohamed El Baladi, 31, who was sentenced on September 3rd by the Trial Court in Taounate to thirty months in prison for converting to Christianity and inducing young Muslims to convert.
“The judge has just acquitted this Moroccan who converted to Christianity,” said Mohamed Oulad Ayad, president of the regional branch of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) in Fez.
On August 27th, the police of Aïn Aicha, a rural town in the Taounate province, arrested Mohamed El Baladi on charges of converting to Christianity and attempting to spread the Christian faith among young people in his village of Aïn Aicha.
Since the beginning of the trial, El Baladi had always defended his right to embrace the Christian faith.
The Moroccan constitution guarantees religious freedom, but any attempt to shake the faith of Muslims by proselytising is punished according to the Moroccan Penal Code.
In accordance with Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code, a proselytizer may face “six months to three years prison and a fine of 100 to 500 Dirhams” for using the “means of seduction in order to convert” a Muslim “to another religion, either by exploiting his/her weakness or his/her needs, or using for these purposes education, health, asylums and orphanage institutions.”
According to AFP, Morocco’s higher council of religious scholars (CSO), the only institution entitled to issue fatwas in the kingdom, “called for the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith.”
After admitting their failure to spread what they call “the message of Christ” in the Kingdom, Christian missionaries have used Facebook to distribute more than 30,000 Bibles translated into “Darija,” Moroccan Arabic, in an attempt to entice Moroccans to convert to Christianity.
According to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State, the predominantly Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian expat community in Morocco “consists of approximately 5,000 practicing members, although some Protestant and Catholic clergy estimate the number to be as high as 25,000”.
Story thanks to Morocco World News
French firm lights up Rabat
The French Company LEC Lyon has announced an LED lighting project in the historic city of Rabat.
LED-based lighting is increasingly finding use in UNESCO sites in part because of concerns over light pollution and the need for low-energy usage in older structures with dated infrastructure.
Lighting of the walls of Rabat was undertaken along with restructuring of the Hassan II roadway that runs alongside the old-town area of the city. The walls protect the south and west sides of the city and were built in the late twelfth century. The walls stand 8m high and the 1.5-km lit section features architectural elements that the city chose to preserve and highlight with the dual-color project.
"The walls encircle the old city of Rabat, the ones that are illuminated today are the one that are the most visible," said Fouad Bahechar, president of Electrimar. "Every 30m, the turrets project over the street. We thought that this rhythm was interesting to explore; that’s the reason why we chose to use two colors, warm white for continuity and red for relief."
German programme will restore second Moroccan synagogue
The historic Essaouira synagogue in Morocco will be refurbished in a joint project with the German Foreign Ministry. This will be the second that has been restored under the scheme.
Tuesday’s announcement came as the Moroccan ambassador in Berlin, Omar Zniber, launched an exhibit at the embassy’s cultural center of photographs of Moroccan Jews from the 1960s as well as new photos of synagogues in the country, both pre- and post-renovation.
At the time of the photos, there were still tens of thousands of Jews in Morocco. Today the population is estimated at about 2,500.
In addition, a conference on Moroccan Jewish cultural patrimony was hosted at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum this week.
A spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry said that the restoration of the 19th century Simon Attias Synagogue in Essaouira is to be completed in 2015. It is a joint effort with the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage.
“With this project, the Federal Foreign Office supports the preservation of Jewish heritage in Morocco, thereby helping to strengthen the national identity of the country,” he said.
The programme already completed the restoration of the 17th century Slat al Fassiyin synagogue in Fez, which had been used as a carpet factory and then a boxing ring. It was rededicated in ceremonies last year.
At that ceremony, Moroccan King Mohammed IV called for the restoration of all synagogues in the country “so that they may serve not only as places of worship, but also as forums for cultural dialogue and for the promotion of our cultural values.”
Moroccan Writers on Booker Shortlist
Two Moroccan novelists are on the short list of six finalists vying for the 2014 Booker Prize for Arab novels, organizers announced Monday in Amman.
|Youssef Fadel on Booker shortlist|
The shortlist also includes the works by Khaled Khalifa (Syria), Ahmed Saadawi and In’am Kajaji (Irak), and Ahmed Mourad (Egypt).
Valentine's Day in Morocco - the Eid I Love you!
According to Larbi Arbaoui, writing for Morocco World News, Moroccans are generally either sceptical or ignorant about Valentines Day. When The View from Fez toured Fez's Ville Nouvelle we discovered a fair amount of Valentine's advertising and so we asked shoppers what they thought it was all about. "It is like Eid," one woman told us, "It is the Eid I love you." Cute.
Larbi Arbaoui writes, St Valentine is a special day in Morocco. When you go downtown, you see hundreds of teenagers buying St Valentine gifts sold in most shopping malls in Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
Morocco’s new generation is more influenced today than its precedents by foreign cultures, traditions, and celebrations.
However, Morocco’s old generation is more reluctant to change, and preserve its own values and traditions. We can say that not a great majority of Moroccans celebrate Valentine; some do not even know about it; others neglect it or simply don't believe in it.
According to Rachid Jankari writing for Zawaya, Valentine’s Day is not an Islamic tradition. Muslims in general, including Moroccans, believe that this expression of love is an “imported” tradition, and an expression of cultural alienation vis-à-vis the Western social model.
On the economic field, however, the “rejection” or “refusal” of this Western celebration of love do not stop stores and brands from decorating their shop windows predominantly in red in honor of this holiday.
Franchises of large brands have also “relocated” the European offers dedicated to Valentine’s Day in their parent companies, to the major shopping areas of Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakech, to name these large cities only.
Restaurants and cafés do not skimp on possible means to adapt their menus and services to the traditions of this annual emotional event.
An online travel agency was even more creative this year, as it launched a quiz in partnership with an airline operator. The proposed prize was a round-trip fare to many European capitals with free accommodation for two people, in order to celebrate this unbreakable love tie.
Morocco's changing attitudes towards unmarried couples
Due to the internet, television and Facebook, a change is taking place among young Moroccans. As a society, Morocco is the 4th highest user of social media in Africa and the effect of open communication is affecting every facet of their lives from fashion and diet to sex am=nd marriage. An interesting article appeared recently in the Malaysian Chronicle which took a look at the way a younger generation is breaking from ways of the past when it comes to couples living together.
When Moroccan divorcee Soumaya moved in with her new French boyfriend she was hoping to forget the unhappiness of her marriage. Instead, she lost her children.
It's a crime in Muslim Morocco to live together out of wedlock, and unmarried couples not only face police harassment but also the prying eyes of disapproving neighbours.
Soumaya, a mother of two, says her jealous ex-husband ratted on her to the police when she started living with her boyfriend in Marrakech, accusing her of prostitution and finding 12 witnesses to support his story.
"I didn't want to make the same mistake twice," she said of her decision not to remarry. But the boyfriend eventually left her and she lost custody of the kids.
Cohabitation may be relatively common in Morocco's swish urban districts, but conservative religious attitudes can be stifling, especially for young couples living in downscale, traditional neighbourhoods
Ibtissam Lachgar, an activist and co-founder of a campaign group to promote individual liberties, says she lives happily with her boyfriend in her apartment in the centre of the capital, Rabat. "I don't feel my sexual freedom is restricted, even though we're not married. The neighbours don't bother me, probably because I own my apartment," she says. The problem begins, she says, when they travel to the country's hinterland and try to stay in a hotel. "It's impossible; the law forbids it. They ask to see a marriage certificate. So we're forced to seek alternative arrangements, like staying with friends."
Lachgar's boyfriend Soufiane Fares, who studies law in Rabat's twin city of Sale, said "consensual sex between adults is a personal decision which others have no right to interfere with. "But living together outside of marriage is very difficult in a conservative society."
Ghassan Hakam, in his 30s, has his own experience of this, living in Casablanca with his French girlfriend for three years. Originally from Fez, the theatre director says that even in Morocco's largest city, they are constantly aware of their neighbours' displeasure. "I try to be discreet, avoiding kissing or touching my girlfriend in the area where we live. But I feel we are being watched, even if they don't say anything," he notes.
His girlfriend Fanny is sure that her life would be a lot more difficult if she were Moroccan.
"I would definitely have suffered even more from the hostile looks and prejudices I encounter," she says.
Hakam, who lived in Paris for six years, doesn't believe he needs to get married to prove his love, and questions the reason for criminalising cohabitation.
"Are two people who love each other harming society or committing a crime by living together under one roof," he asks.
Article 490 of Morocco's penal code states that sex outside marriage is punishable by up to one year in jail. In December 2012, 22 feminist organisations called for it to be repealed. Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid, who belongs to Morocco's ruling Islamist party, declared his opposition to that. "These sexual relationships undermine the foundations of our society," he insisted.
Karim, a young entrepreneur who recently moved into a crowded neighbourhood of Rabat, no longer lives with his girlfriend. "She used to come round to my house, but she couldn't stand the looks of the neighbours, especially the men sitting in the cafe opposite. Sometimes we were forced to return late at night to avoid the intrusive looks, which made us feel we'd committed a crime."
A study conducted by the health ministry in 2007 indicated that 36 percent of young Moroccan men had had sex outside marriage, while the proportion of unmarried young women who had lost their virginity was much lower, at 15%.