Morocco’s Christians Go Underground as Pressure to Renounce Faith Continues
Earlier this year, a popular Arabic language newspaper attacked Morocco’s Christian activists for their faith and included a message which said that the “Koran requires the killing of apostates.” The newspaper claimed that Christians are responsible for the rise of ISIS, an accusation that has been repeated elsewhere in the country. Morocco is home to several thousand Christians who live across the nation, many of whom are new converts and forced to worship in secret churches. Christians are regularly harassed by authorities, and societal pressure to renounce their faith is commonplace throughout the country.
08/31/2017 Morocco (MEMRI) – On April 3, 2017, representatives of the recently-formed National Coordination of Moroccan Christians met with the chair of Morocco’s National Human Rights Council (CNDH) to express their demand for full civil rights. Four days later they sent a letter to Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani in which they detailed their demands, including the freedom to worship openly in church, contract civil or Christian marriages, consecrate Christian cemeteries, give Christian names to their children, and be exempted from government-mandated Islamic instruction in school curricula.
Unlike foreign Christians, Moroccan Christians, whose number is estimated at several thousand and many of whom are new converts to Christianity, do not currently enjoy these rights and are legally treated as Muslim. According to reports, they are forced to worship in secret churches located in private homes, and are often arrested and interrogated if they try to openly practice their faith.
The National Coordination’s initiative evoked a range of neutral, positive and negative reactions in Moroccan print and digital media. Especially virulent was an article published May 6, 2017 in the popular Arabic-language newspaper Al-Ousboue Assahafi, titled “Are Morocco’s Christians Unaware of How ISIS Originated?” The article attacks and implicitly threatens the Christian activists, calling them “apostates… who prefer to be slaves of Christ instead of serving God and his Prophet,” and noting ominously that “we all know the Koran requires the killing of apostates.” It claims that ISIS arose in reaction to people like these Christians, and therefore that they cause “the spread of terrorism” in their homeland. It also condemns Moroccan clerics for “keeping silent about the phenomenon of apostasy and religious heresy that is spreading fast in Morocco due to the Church’s huge financial investment in spreading the Christian religion.”
It should be mentioned that similar arguments were made in a May 11, 2017 article titled “Islam in Morocco is Threatened, O Commander of the Faithfull” by the weekly’s owner, Mustapha Alaoui, a veteran journalist and author who is popularly referred to as the “dean of Moroccan journalists.” In this article he accused “Western publications and websites” of spreading missionary propaganda in Morocco, and claimed that Moroccans who converted to Christianity, as well as atheists “whose ideas contradict even Christianity”, are now campaigning for rights and “maligning Islam” amid the silence of Morocco’s “weak” clerics. He warned darkly that “these conditions will lead to the appearance of angry groups bent on defending the honor of the Islamic faith in Morocco.”