Anti-Islamist protest stirs controversy in Morocco

Sunday 25/09/2016
September 18th anti-Islamist demonstration in Casablanca.

Casablanca - Thousands of Moroccans heeding calls on social media gathered in Casa­blanca to protest the “Islamisation of society” ahead of parliamentary elections.

The rally September 18th di­vided protesters and the media af­ter videos posted on social media raised questions about who was involved in organising the protest against the ruling Justice and De­velopment Party (PJD).

While some supporters of the opposition Authenticity and Mo­dernity Party (PAM) took part in the demonstration, PAM Secre­tary-General Ilyas el-Omari denied that the party had any involve­ment in the rally.

“Neither have we been invited nor asked to participate in this event. Within the party, we are for freedom of expression, provided it is consistent with the law,” Omari told Horizontv.ma.

Omari made it known last March that he intended to fight the ruling Islamist PJD reference documents that convey “this other interpreta­tion” of Islam.

Videos on YouTube showed demonstrators expressing anger at the PJD-led coalition government for failing to deliver on promises and called on Prime Minister Ab­delilah Benkirane to “leave”.

Some who were there on “local authorities’ request” to protest corruption and other social issues said they were stunned when they found out that demonstration was organised against PJD. Others said they did not know what the pro­test was about, according to videos posted by various media outlets.

“Moroccans are facing jobless­ness, pollution problems, corrup­tion and the latest demonstration was biased. They are accusing the Islamist party to take control of the society and it’s not true,” said Has­san el-Baiga from Laayoune.

Houda Bounsir slammed Ben­kirane on Facebook for not doing enough for the North African king­dom apart from “raising the prices of commodities and making the poor poorer”.

The Facebook page, which called for the “unauthorised” protest, re­mained anonymous, leaving ques­tions just a few weeks before leg­islative elections. However, some unions and parties responded to the call by taking part in the rally.

Interior Minister Mohamed Has­sad denied any link with the pro­test. “We were surprised by the march,” Hassad told TelQuel.ma.

He explained that his depart­ment had followed the call for the protest on Facebook and that no application for authorisation had been made to the ministry, which decided not to ban it.

“This is not the time to ban a demonstration, a few weeks before the elections,” he said.

Many political parties de­nounced the anti-Benkirane pro­test as “regrettable” and “aston­ishing”.

“It is clear that everyone has the right to criticise the PJD or Ben­kirane but this type of event re­mains regrettable,” said Mohand Laenser, secretary-general of the Popular Movement (MP).

Ismail Alaoui, former general-secretary of the Progress and So­cialism Party (PPS), expressed as­tonishment at “the way the protest was organised, the bits of infor­mation that have emerged in the electronic media and the Interior Minister’s statements”.

Justice Minister Mustapha Ram­id took to Facebook to deplore his exclusion from the preparations of the elections, scheduled for Octo­ber 7th.

“In the last local elections, the minister of Justice and Freedoms made the decisions in consultation with the Interior minister in every­thing that had to do with elections. Today… we are witnessing strange events,” wrote Ramid.

“The minister of Justice and Freedoms is not consulted and decides nothing, which means he cannot be held liable for any medi­ocrity, regression, abuse or devia­tion,” he added.

Hassad downplayed the rift with PJD by insisting that his ministry has always worked with confi­dence.

“The Interior minister ensures that the mission entrusted by the king to both his department and the Justice ministry to oversee elections will be successfully com­pleted, and we will solve it togeth­er,” said Hassad.

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