RABAT, Morocco – Three of Morocco's most prominent conservative clerics have publicly backed a death threat against a journalist who called for greater sexual freedom in the North African kingdom.
Mokhtar el-Ghzioui, the editor of the daily al-Ahdath al-Maghribia, publicly supported a call by a Moroccan human rights activist to decriminalize sex outside of marriage and said in a TV interview last week he would be fine with his mother or sister having consensual sexual relations outside of wedlock.
A preacher in the far eastern city of Oujda near the Algeria border then made a YouTube video on June 28 condemning him as a "dyouth" a religious term for someone who willing lets his wife commit adultery, and called for his death. Abdullah Nahari was then summoned by the local prosecutor to answer to the charge of inciting a crime.
Abou Hafs, Omar el-Heddouchi and Hassan al-Kettani, the three most prominent clerics of the ultraconservative Salafi strand of Islam in Morocco, all spoke out in support of Nahari on their Facebook pages late Thursday.
"The arrogance of the secularists has become intolerable," said Kettani. "A dyouth tells the world he would let his family sin and is then denounced by a sheikh and then it is the latter who is threatened with prison?"
The three men were imprisoned in 2003 and later implicated for inspiring a string of bombings by Islamist militants in Casablanca that killed 45 people. They were pardoned by the king in February.
Khadija Riyadi, head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights called on June 18 for the canceling of article 490 of the penal code, which criminalizes sex outside of marriage.
On Thursday, journalists demonstrated outside the offices of the newspaper in support of el-Ghizioui.
Morocco, a favored destination for European tourists, is overwhelmingly Muslim and both drinking alcohol and sex outside marriage are prohibited by law. The laws are not strictly enforced, however.