The most 'dangerous' books in Morocco

The most 'dangerous' books in Morocco
Books on the king, the army and religion have been banned in Morocco over the last 40 years.
5 min read
18 December, 2014
The ban list includes many books about royalty [Getty]

The king, the army and religion are the holy trinity of taboo subjects in Morocco, and books that have tackled these topics "inappropriately" have been banned. There is a long list of books banned in Morocco because they are critical of the king or the army, or because they do not conform to the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, which the kingdom has adopted as its official version of Islam.

However, Moroccan authorities have recently realised that the internet has made bans largely irrelevant. Indeed, Karim Aazaan, an expert on publishing law, said banning a book had the opposite effect in the digital age. "When a book is banned from entering Morocco, everyone goes to the internet out of curiosity, resulting in the fame of the author," he said

Al-Araby al-Jadeed charted the most "dangerous" books in Morocco in the latest part of the Charged with the possession of a book series.

Books about the King

The Commander of the Faithful: The Moroccan Political Elite – a study in segmented politics (1970), by John Waterbury is considered an important reference for understanding Moroccan political history and its main actors. The book's Arabic version has been banned in Morocco for many years.

     The book's chapter on Hassan II's control of the political elite was of most concern to authorities during his reign.

Mohammad al-Ghali, a lecturer in political science, said its chapter on Hassan II's control of the political elite was of most concern to authorities during his reign.

Ghali said the king controlled the elite through a system of patronage, his authority over the interior ministry and by extension the police and army, his appointment of the royal cabinet, a "shadow government", and interference in the judiciary and the media.

Gilles Perrault's 1980 biography of Hassan II, Our Friend the King, is also banned. Perrault describes the book as being "a small opening into the coffin of darkness" as it charts "the secret life of the monarch and the conspiracies, arrests, torture of prisoners and cruelty to leftist activists that took place during his reign".

Before the advent of the internet, Moroccan expats would fax copies of the book to their home country.

La Prisonniere (2000), published in English as Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, is an autobiography by Malika Oufkir, the daughter of General Mohamed Oufkir, who led a failed coup attempt against Hassan II in 1972. He was killed and his entire family were imprisoned in a secret desert prison camp for 20 years. The official record states Oufkir committed suicide.

Ali Amar, a Moroccan journalist, wrote a book entitled Mohammed VI: The Great Misunderstanding (2009), in which he discusses 10 years of Mohammed VI's reign through his experiences in royal circles before the death of Hassan II. The book contains controversial personal evaluations and details of private meetings. The King's cousin, Prince Hicham, described the book as "not saying anything new, but exaggerating and insulting people in a failed attempt to overcome its vacuous content".

The Predator King: Plundering Morocco (2013) by Catherine Graciet and Eric Laurent remained on the bestseller list in France for weeks. The book, copies of which were smuggled into Morocco in the baggage of travellers and obtainable through the internet, looks at the wealth of the king and his control of politics by monopolisation of the economy.

The latest book to be published about the Moroccan King is Mohammed VI: Derriere les Masques (2014) [Behind the Masks], by Moroccan journalist Omar Brouksy. It strongly criticises the king and examines his personal characteristics, like his shyness and health.

Ghali, the lecturer, said he believed Moroccan authorities no longer imposed restrictions on books about the king, and prohibition was no longer useful. "In fact, it pushes people to obtain the prohibited item," he said. "The authorities have finally understood the game."

Ghali said the government was careful to clarify it had not banned Prince Moulay Hicham ben Abdallah Alaoui's autobiography, Journal d'un Prince Banni (2014), [Diary of a Banished Prince]. Hicham, the king's cousin is known as the "Red Prince" due to his leftist leanings, and lives in the US. In his book, he talks about his experiences in the royal family and strongly criticises the Moroccan model of government.

Books about the army

     Prohibition is no longer useful, it pushes people to obtain the prohibited item. The authorities have finally understood the game.

Les Officiers de Sa Majeste (2006), or His Majesty's Officers, by Mahdjoub Tobji is about the Moroccan army, and exposes corruption in its highest ranks. In a phone conversation with al-Araby al-Jadeed, Tobji, a former Moroccan army officer who escaped to France, said his book deals with "corruption within the army and the conflicts over wealth among the army's bigwigs". He also said the three generals he names in the book "control weapons deals. They make weapons contracts with companies in the US and Europe and receive millions of dollars in commissions".

Memoires d'un Soldat Marocain (2014) [Memoires of a Moroccan Soldier], is a book by Abdelilah Issou, also a former officer in the Moroccan army. The book exposes details of the Moroccan army's involvement in the drug trade. Some Moroccans consider Issou to be a Spanish agent as he has been given political asylum in Spain.

Books about religion

After the Iranian revolution of 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini announced his intention to export revolution to other countries and toppling other monarchies. Hassan II declared Khomeini an apostate and banned Shia books from entering Morocco. Over the years, the restrictions have been loosened, but in 2009 Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran after accusing it of attempting to infiltrate Morocco to spread Shia Islam. The authorities banned Shia books.

Karim Aazaan said authorities used a media law that could ban any publication that insults Islam, the monarchy, the geographic unity of the kingdom, or disrespected the king or disturbed public order.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.