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‘Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Moroccan Constitution’

His Excellency Aziz Mekouar Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to the United States of America (Photo : dcusa.themoroccanembassy.com)

Morocco has a long and close friendship with America that dates to the beginning of the US republic, when Morocco was the first to recognize American independence. Our country also has a very long and documented history of religious tolerance and positive interfaith relations.

Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Moroccan Constitution, and it applies equally to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Members of the three faiths have lived together, worked together, and shared lives together for generations. Christian institutions in Morocco have a strong record of working to maintain friendly relations and dialogue with the government and society. Unfortunately, the individuals in question chose to operate outside those institutions and outside the law.

The recent repatriation measures that affected a number of Americans were taken not because of their Christian faith, but solely and exclusively because the concerned parties were found to have broken the law and engaged in proselytism activities clearly and categorically forbidden by the laws of Morocco. Articles 220 to 223 of the Moroccan Penal Code call for fines and imprisonment for whomever “has forced or prevented a single or numerous persons to practice a faith or to participate in the practice of that faith”, or for whomever actively engages in “undermining a Muslim’s faith or of converting him/her to another religion, either by exploiting his weaknesses or needs, or through the use, to this end, of health or educational establishments, as well as shelters or orphanages.”

The references to educational establishments and orphanages reflect concern for the impressionability of, and desire to protect, young children, especially those orphans raised without the normal transmission of their Muslim religious faith through their families. While reaction to the measures taken by Moroccan authorities has focused on the rights of those who were in charge of the children, Moroccan law understandably seeks above all to protect the children and preserve the religious faith of their often tragically interrupted family lives.

Moroccan authorities were obligated to fulfill their responsibilities to enforce the laws after a thorough investigation was conducted. Morocco being an open, transparent and democratic state, those individuals who want to challenge their deportations can do so through legal means at their disposal. The right to appeal is provided for by the law and, if they choose to, it is a matter for the courts to decide.

Last week’s Congressional briefing was disappointing in that the organizers chose not to invite representatives of Morocco to present its side of the story. Neither were any representatives of other Christian or religious communities invited to present their views and perspectives on Morocco. Particularly appalling and offensive were comments by one member of the panel who compared Morocco’s actions with “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.” Morocco defended the Jewish community during the horrific years of Nazi atrocities. These comments belittle the suffering of the Jewish people and insult each and every Moroccan.

Morocco remains committed to the values of interfaith dialogue, tolerance, freedom of expression and openness to people of all nationalities. These values are central pillars of our society and enshrined in our law. It is only reasonable to expect that people who accept our hospitality will observe our laws and respect our society’s values. We continue to extend our friendship to those who come respectfully to Morocco, especially to Americans, and welcome their efforts to assist in the development efforts of Morocco.

AZIZ MEKOUAR
AMBASSADOR OF
THE KINGDOM OF MOROCCO
TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WASHINGTON, DC

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