Despite various social tensions in his country, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI called for reform of Islam similar to the contention of Egyptian president al Sisi on New Year’s Day 2015.The pro-American Moroccan monarch said he wants to rein in the pernicious Islamic doctrine of Jihad.
According to Moroccan authorities more than 1600 Moroccans have joined jihadists in Syria, Libya and Iraq and 200 to 240 of that number have returned either to Morocco or European countries. So alarming is the trend that the Kingdom has embarked on a special education program aimed at neutralizing extremist interpretations of the Koran, specifically mention of jihad.
The fact is radical groups in the northern part of the Kingdom have increased tension and unrest and the regime seems unable to control the situation. Some analysts have compared the situation to the southern Tunisian town where a false claim was made against a vender selling fruits and vegetables. Ultimately this street peddler poured kerosene on himself setting himself ablaze. This was the beginning of what was termed “the Arab Spring.” Surely history never reproduces itself exactly, but Morocco’s leadership has taken notice nonetheless.
Morocco survived the political tsunami by adopting a series of liberal laws designed to neutralize unrest while pursuing a hard policy against Muslim extremists. Nevertheless, an unemployed telephone technician, Nasser Zefzafi has led a protest movement called “Hirak” against the central government that has gained traction. Moroccan authorities maintain Zefzafi and his followers have been manipulated by jihadist activists to destabilize the government. Since his arrest, protests have been held around the country and even in European capitals.
Morocco has had a history of challenges in its northern region invariably curtailed with merciless repression. The challenges have only increased since the millennium with jihadists, ISIS and al Qaeda all trying to destabilize the government. There are at least 132 terrorist cells in the country according to the Moroccan secret police and 2720 terrorists arrested.
According to King Mohammed in his most recent public commentary: “Those who incite murder and who use the Koran and the Sunna for their goals are but generating lies… All Muslims, Christians and Jews should create a joint front to stand against fanaticism, hatred and the proliferation of ignorance spread in the name of religion.”
It is clear King Mohammed cannot and will not yield to the threat of Islamic extremism. He is obliged to subdue the radical elements and take whatever measures are necessary to prevent the interaction between jihadist organizations within the country and radical forces outside his national borders.
Calling for reforms is one thing – and a desirable thing – but adopting those measures needed to destroy the enemy are something else again, something indispensable in the war against jihadism.