Morocco's minorities demand clarity on religious freedom law

Morocco's minorities demand clarity on religious freedom law
Representatives of Morocco's religious minorities gathered in an unprecedented meeting in Rabat to demand protection from repression and harassment.
2 min read
19 November, 2017
Morocco's religious minorities make up less that one percent of the country's population [AFP]

Representatives of Morocco's religious minorities on Saturday urged the government to clarify the country's law on freedom of worship in Morocco, where Islam is the state religion.

Their statement came after an unprecedented meeting in the capital Rabat.

"The Moroccan state still places barriers when it comes to legal reforms concerning minorities," Jawad el Hamidi, the coordinator of the Moroccan Commission of Religious Minorities, told AFP.

"There is a kind of fear of opening this door and having a discussion - even civil society is still reluctant to talk freely about this topic."

Morocco's religious minorities, who are mostly Christians, Jews and Bahais, account for less than one percent of the country's population.

By gathering on Saturday, academics, researchers, human rights activists, preachers and representatives of religious minorities sought to demand recognition of their rights in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

"We suffer repression and harassment," said Hamidi, adding that some local media outlets had referred to those present as "atheists" and "homosexuals".

The meeting's venue had to be changed and some speakers also withdrew after "pressure," organisers said.

Since the creation of Israel and the independence of Morocco, what was the largest Jewish community in North Africa has dwindled to fewer than 5,000 members.

There are also a small number of Moroccan Muslims who have converted to Christianity and practise their faith in seret. The US State department estimates that these converts number between 2,000 and 6,000.

Expat Christians worship freely and are protected by the authorities, providing they do not evangelise, which is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Mohamed Said, a Moroccan convert to Christianity, said his ultimate goal was to see the country's constitution explicitly recognise freedom of religion.

"This congress, in my opinion, is a beginning... a small breakthrough," he said.