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A spate of deportations marks a tougher stance toward Christians in once-tolerant Morocco.
Already in 2005, Abdelhamid Aouad, a nationalist member of parliament, raised the issue on the floor of parliament, asking the minister of Islamic affairs what the government was doing about the massive evangelization underway. Repeatedly the minister told him that there was nothing to worry about.
Aouad declared, without proof, that the evangelists’ ultimate goal was to convert 10 percent of the Moroccan population by 2020. An Islamist center mentioned that 150,000 Moroccans had been converted by Christian missionaries. Both unfounded allegations are clearly being used as scare tactics to shape public opinion.
Hard statistics are tough to get, but there are allegedly between 150 to 800 missionaries and from 7,000 to 58,000 converts in Morocco. The discrepancy in numbers can be explained by the fact that missionaries and converts have had to go underground in order to stay protected.
The regime has devoted time and energy to fight off this supposed wave of conversion through for example a zero tolerance policy and the creation of a cell devoted to monitoring the phenomenon.
While the plight of foreign Christians is bad, the one of Moroccan Christians is even worse. The Moroccan constitution guarantees the free practice of all religions and King Mohamed VI was crystal clear when he stated that people of the three religions — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — can freely and safely express themselves in the kingdom.
But Moroccan Christians are banned from entering official churches and have to pray in hiding. They also have to be married and buried under Muslim law.
The weekly Moroccan magazine Telquel rightly pointed out: “Do we have the right in a country that calls itself modern to reduce to silence thousands of Moroccans?”
Morocco's tolerant image suffers. The regime's tough policy on Christians is petty politics — and it plays right into the hands of Islamists who advocate an end to the semi-freedom of religion in place in Morocco. This turnaround is not worthy of the Moroccan kingdom.
Olivier Guitta is a security and geopolitical consultant based in Europe. You can view his latest work at www.thecroissant.com/about.html