Tolerance and religious freedom singled out by the USA

In Morocco, Islam is the state religion with over 99% Sunni Muslims and less than 0.1% Shia Muslims. Furthermore, ” 1% of the population is Christian, Jewish or Baha’i“. If the Constitution guarantees everyone the freedom to practice one’s religious affairs“, some minority religious groups practice them quietly for fear of harassment or social ridicule, employment discrimination or even potential violence by extremists against them, according to the latest report from the US State Department.

In this 2021 document on international religious freedom, which covered 200 countries around the world, the US State Department outlines the status of religious freedom in each country and covers government policies that violate religious beliefs and practices. minority group of religious denominations.

Concerning Morocco, the report reviews the various articles of the Constitution referring to religion as well as the pressure exerted by the authorities on religious minorities. He explains that although the law allows religious groups to register as associations, some minority religious groups have reported that the government has delayed or rejected their applications for registration.

While applauding the initiative launched by King Mohammed VI, on December 14, 2021, to renovate Jewish heritage sites in the country, to include hundreds of synagogues, cemeteries and other sites in several cities, the report indicates that an organization of Moroccan Christians has launched a campaign for the revision of laws restricting the ability to lead and attend services in official churches and the right to ecclesiastical or civil marriage. The group also called on the government to allow Moroccan Christians to be buried in Christian cemeteries and bear Christian names, the same source said.

Based on a report by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) from 2020-21, the US State Department indicated that societal harassment of Shia and Shia Islam continues in the press and in Friday sermons. As a result, many practiced their religion privately and avoided disclosing their religious affiliation.

Moreover, the report points out that Sunni Muslims and Jews are the only religious groups recognized in the Constitution as native to the country, noting that a separate set of laws and special courts govern personal status issues for Jews, including marriage, inheritance and other personal status matters.

Representatives of minority religious groups said fear of societal harassment, including ostracism by families of converts, social ridicule, employment discrimination and potential violence against them by extremists, were the main reasons that led them to practice their religion discreetly. Jewish citizens, meanwhile, said they lived and attended services in synagogues safely and could regularly visit religious sites and hold annual commemorations.“, says the report.

In the legal section, the report goes back to what is tolerated or not in Morocco when it comes to religion. He thus recalls that the Constitution and the law governing the media ” prohibit anyone, including parliamentarians, who are normally immune from arrest, from criticizing Islam on public platforms, such as print or online media, or in public speeches“.

Such expressions, the report continues, “ are liable to imprisonment for up to two years, a fine of up to 200,000 dirhams, or both. Imprisonment may be increased to five years or a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 dirhams, or both, if the acts are committed either by speeches, shouts or threats made in public places or public meetings, or by posters displayed publicly through sale, distribution or any other means used for advertising purposes, including in online, print or audiovisual format “.

The report also argues that the law in Morocco penalizes anyone ” employs inducements to undermine the faith or convert a Muslim to another religion by exploiting a weakness or need for assistance, or by using educational, health or other institutions and provides for penalties of six months to three years imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams“.

The same penalties, the report continues, apply to anyone who intentionally interferes with religious rites or celebrations when this causes disturbance or undermines the dignity of such religious acts. It also provides for the right to a trial for anyone charged with such an offence.“.

For voluntary conversion, it is not a crime under the law in Morocco, specifies the report of the United States Department of State, which underlines that the law allows the government to expel summarily any non-citizen resident whom it considers as ” a threat to public order”. Indeed, this law considers that anyone who prevents one or more people from practicing or attending worship services of any religion is liable to six months to three years of imprisonment and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams.

The report also returns to the famous » article of the Penal Code which stipulates that anyone known to be a Muslim who breaks the fast in public during the month of Ramadan without exception granted by the religious authorities is liable to a prison sentence of six months and a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams, while ” owners have discretion to keep their restaurants open during Ramadan“, says the US State Department.

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