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Media Contact: Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle EastRM-ME@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Religious Freedoms Should be On Agenda with Moroccan King
President Obama Meets with King Mohammed VI in Washington
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) welcomes the arrival of Moroccan King Mohammed VI on an official visit to meet with President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. ICC is urging the White House and State Department to make the protection of religious freedom a core component of these discussions.
In light of the rising tide of religious extremism across the region, Morocco has the opportunity to play a key role in countering this trend which is a primary cause of persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. The protection of religious freedom and the danger of violent religious extremism should be core components of these discussions.
While under King Mohammed's reign Morocco has taken gradual steps towards a more liberal and democratic form of governance such as the 2011 adoption of a constitution that provides greater protections of individual rights. The implementation of these reforms is still a work in progress, especially in relation to the protection of the rights of religious minorities.
On February 4, 2010, more than 60 officers raided a home Bible study, detained a number of Christians, and confiscated private property including a computer, books, and other items. "The confiscated things are still in the possession from the gendermerie in Tahanaout, Morocco. There has never been any excuse or restoration made," Abellatif Hamidi, one of the Christians present at the raid recently told ICC. "We are still asking for justice and the return of our property," Hamidi told ICC. This raid came just weeks before a widespread crackdown in which dozens of foreign Christians were expelled from the country and forced to abandon projects including an orphanage. Since 2005 Jamma Ait Bakrim has been in prison, serving a 15 year sentence for his faith. In 2012, three Moroccan Christians were arrested and in August of 2013, another Christian, Mohamed El Baladi, was arrested in Taounate and still awaits a final ruling on his case.
Most troubling is that in early 2013, a fatwa was issued by Morocco's highest religious authority calling for the death penalty for converts from Islam. This is especially disturbing as one of the titles of King Mohammed is "Commander of the Faithful" and he is the chair of this council. While the fatwa does not necessarily become law, a failure by King Mohammed to publicly denounce these statements leads Christians to fear Islamic extremism is rising in Morocco.
King Mohammed has the opportunity to demonstrate by word and action both to his own people and to countries across the region that radical Islam and the persecution of religious minorities will not be tolerated. The United States, as a friend and ally of Morocco, should be at the forefront of encouraging efforts to combat extremism and promote religious freedom.
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "Morocco has an important role to play in combating religious extremism that is driving the troubling persecution of Christians across the Middle East and North Africa. We strongly encourage the Kingdom of Morocco, and King Mohammed VI, to press forward in protecting fundamental human rights, especially as regards the protection of religious freedoms for all of its citizen, including Christians. We urge the United States, specifically President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, to follow its own policy of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of its foreign policy, and working to promote those freedoms in Morocco and across the Middle East and North Africa."
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East: RM-ME@persecution.org
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