Following last Thursday’s (June 17, 2010) hearing in Washington, DC, at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on recent religious persecution in Morocco, including the religiously-motivated deportation of the Christian operators of the Village of Hope orphanage, Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), co-chairs of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, have released their prepared remarks from the hearing.
Congressman Franks stated, “I am particularly troubled by the deportation of foreigners who selflessly worked with orphans, were the only parents most of the children there have ever known, and who were needlessly kicked out of the country solely because of their private religious beliefs.
“I strongly urge the Moroccan government to look into this situation and help us to understand what necessitated such harsh measures. The United States will not turn a blind eye toward the denial of due process. It is unfortunate that the Moroccan government would take such measures against those who are providing much needed humanitarian and business services to Morocco.”
Congressman Cleaver stated, “Sadly, many of these deportations have affected people who have dedicated their lives to humanitarian causes in the region. The Village of Hope is one such example, and I’d like to thank all of our witnesses for their continued humanitarian efforts in the region over the years, and for sharing their testimony today. Since 2002 the Village of Hope has been legally recognized by the Moroccan government, yet suddenly these workers have been expelled on allegations of illegal religious proselytism, threatening Morocco’s commitment to upholding religious freedom.”
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and also serves as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, giving her personal view on the situation in Morocco, said, “At a time when the United States owes more in debts and commitments than the total combined net worth of all Americans, it is unacceptable to provide $697.5 million in taxpayer dollars to a nation which blatantly disregards the right of American citizens residing in Morocco and forcibly expels American citizens without due process of law.
“The famously moderate Muslim government shocked religious-freedom observers when, beginning in March, its Interior Ministry rounded up and expelled within hours dozens of Christian humanitarian and social workers, educators, and businessmen. A second wave of deportations followed in April, bringing the total to 105 Christian deportees. None was afforded due process. In violation of Moroccan law, even those Christians who had lived there for a decade or more and had deep roots in the community were escorted out of the country with only hours notice and without an explanation of charges. The prestigious George Washington Academy in Casablanca has been demonized by the media and subject to state investigations. Some are saying that a cleansing of the small, mostly foreign Christian community is underway.
“Precipitating these deportations were accusations by a coordinated group of Muslim hardliners that the Christians were engaged in proselytizing. Morocco’s Ambassador Aziz Mekouar explained to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom this week that conversion to Christianity is not a crime in Morocco, but proselytizing is though the country’s penal code fails to specify what this precisely means. For example, it is unclear whether giving inducements or bribes to convert is a necessary element, or whether simply answering a question about one’s faith is also against the law.
“What is clear is that Morocco is feeling the pressure of rising Islamic extremism. Seven thousand Muslim religious leaders recently signed a document describing the work of Christians within Morocco as ‘moral rape’ and ‘religious terrorism,’ according to Christianity Today. Some religious-freedom observers believe that outrage against the Christian aid workers was manufactured for political reasons that originated within the Organization of Islamic Conference. The ire of some state members of that Saudi-based religious association was aroused after Morocco expelled Wahhabis and Shiites. In a tacit acknowledgement that the mass deportations were aimed at placating Muslim extremists, the ambassador explained the deportations of the Christians as necessary for maintaining ‘public order.’”
Shea went on to say, “Morocco still likes to boast of being an open, inviting country, unscathed by the extremism and violence that have engulfed other nations in the region. It has been a place where Western tourists and even retirees have been welcome, where law is based on a civil code, where churches and synagogues are allowed to be built and maintained, and where Catholic, evangelical, and Jewish schools have not only been tolerated but popular among the 99 percent of the population of 33 million that are Sunni Malikite Muslims. This reputation for tolerance is waning, though, as the country bends to OIC and other sources of Islamist radicalism. Last Ramadan, police patrolled restaurants and cafes enforcing the Islamic fast for the first time, with coercive methods reminiscent of the Saudi religious police.
“The Sultan of Morocco sent a letter to George Washington at Valley Forge announcing that American ships were permitted “to take refreshments and enjoy in them the same privileges and immunities as those of other nations,” making Morocco the first country to officially recognize the new United States. It seems that King Muhhamed VI’s welcome is now far chillier. At least someone in Congress is paying attention.”
For more information, contact:
Bethany Haley or Ben Carnes at 202-225-4576