Female Islamist MP drops the veil in Paris, divides Morocco’s ruling PJD
CASABLANCA - Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) is going through turmoil amid growing division between its leaders over scandals involving its politicians.
The PJD’s popularity dwindled following personal photos of an unveiled female member of parliament in Paris that were shown by Moroccan media.
MP Amina Maelainine initially said that the picture with her exposed hair blown by the wind in front of the Moulin Rouge in Paris was fabricated and denounced a “slanderous” campaign against her. She later admitted on Facebook that the photos were genuine.
“I would like to point out that the pictures are not new and have already been sent to some of the party ministers and some members of the secretariat who briefed me a few months ago,” Maelainine said, warning that she would prosecute anyone who harms “my reputation and my family.”
Maelainine rose to fame in the political scene with her eloquence and interventions in the media. She is the seventh vice-president of the Souss-Massa region and seventh vice-president of the House of Representatives.
Ousted Prime Minister and former PJD Secretary-General Abdelilah Benkirane, known to be close to Maelainine, went quickly to her defence.
“I blame you for not coming to see me during this controversy to confer with me. If you had asked me for advice, I would have told you that nobody has the right to ask you anything about this question. You are free and it’s a personal matter,” Benkirane told Maelainine during a meeting at his house.
However, Prime Minister and current PJD Secretary-General Saad Eddine El Othmani disagreed during PJD national council session.
“The party’s commitment to its Islamic repository is an exercise and not an illusion, we must ensure that we are always attached to it,” said Othmani. “We must set an example, especially those who are at the forefront of public opinion.”
Benkirane, who attended the session, warned “the veil is not a work outfit as some demons have said.”
“Our sisters carry it by belief and conviction,” Benkirane said.
Political analyst Hafid Ezzahri said the PJD, which has been dubbed as the party of “pink stories,” was going through a serious internal crisis because of Maelainine.
“Maelainine’s case took another path after Moroccans called on the ruling party to clarify its official public discourse on the matter as PJD leaders continue to show their divisions over the matter,” said Ezzahri.
Maelainine’s photos prompted wide condemnation of her “hypocrisy” among Moroccans and some politicians.
“The hypocrites will end in the depths of hell. It is clear that today we must unmask the contradictions of the Islamists,” said Secretary-General of the Unified Socialist Party Nabila Mounib during a party event in Tetouan.
Many Moroccans took to social media to address the contradiction between PJD politicians’ public speech and their private behaviour, reminding them that they were not immune from criticism as public figures.
“Why did Maelainine take off her veil in France? Is it halal to do it in the West and haram (illegal) in her own country? A double-faced politician cannot be trusted,” civil servant Abdellatif Saaidi said.
Ezzahri said the rift in the PJD will likely result in resignations and that the ruling party can no longer preserve its politico-religious speech following scandals that have involved its politicians and leaders.
He referred to the case of Labour Minister Mohamed Yatim who was photographed holding hands with his physiotherapist in Paris, pictures that filled the front pages of Moroccan newspapers last September.
Yatim later formalised his relationship with his physiotherapist although his wife refused to grant him permission to remarry.
In September 2016, one month before parliamentary elections, two senior members of the Movement for Unity and Reform Movement — PJD’s religious and ideological wing — were arrested on charges of lewd behaviour in public.
Omar Benhammad and Fatima Nejjar were allegedly found in a “sexual position” in a car on a beach in El Mansouria. They were married a few weeks later.