Morocco World News
Fez, January 26, 2012
On Wednesday, January 18th 2012, three educated unemployed young Moroccans protesting near the Moroccan parliament set themselves on fire. Two of them were in a serious condition for days. The third spent six days in a comma at Ibn Rushd Hospital in Casablanca before he died yesterday.
This incident raised many questions and prompted many debates about how far the unemployed youth should take their protests and whether self-immolation is the right solution to a huge problem from which hundreds of thousands of Moroccans suffer.
No matter how different are the opinions and beliefs we might hold about self-immolation, we should stop for a moment to think and reflect about this person. We should stop passing useless judgments and just think of the young Moroccan who passed away as the brother, cousin, friend, and human he was.
When I first heard of last Wednesday’s incident, I personally jumped to many conclusions that I even refused to watch the videos or read anything about the matter because I was strongly convinced that self-immolation is a conscious suicidal act which is completely forbidden by our religion, Islam. Our regligion teaches us that our bodies do not belong to us but to Allah. How can anyone, then, dare to set himself ablaze under whatever circumstances? I still believe so; but I have been trying to see beyond my beliefs and be open-minded about it.
Abdelouahab Zaidoun was a 27 years old Moroccan who received his MA in Judiciary and Documentation from the University in Fez. He could not find a job in the public sector after his graduation; he believed that he did his part in excelling in his studies and achieving his diploma and it was the government’s part to secure him a decent job. Abdelouahab was married to an educated woman, who was herself unemployed, but who supported him throughout his struggle for a better life, a life that they were supposed to share together.
I didn’t know Abdelouahab in person, but after his tragic incident, I have come to discover that we have some friends in common. His friends were very shocked at the news of his self-immolation as they were at the news of his death. They knew him as a very cheerful person whose smile never left his face. He was a decent young man who was highly respected and admired for his morals, conduct and ethics. He was very religious that he memorized the Quran and was very consistent in his religious practices. Most importantly, he never showed any signs that he had any suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
In the past few days, many stories have circulated about what really happened near the Parliament that day. The most frequent general story was that the young men willingly set themselves on fire to protest against unemployment and the cruelty of the Moroccan police in dealing with their “peaceful” protests.
Some of the witnesses who were at the scene that day completely discounted the idea that Mohammed elHawas, one of the other two men that set themselves ablaze, and Abdelouahab Zaidoun had any previous intentions of doing so. The two men doused their bodies with gasoline in an attempt to threaten the police, who were surrounding them, but things then went wrong. By one account, the lighter Mohammed was holding in his hand, suddenly and unintentionally fell, which quickly resulted in fire spreading all over his body. At that moment, Abdelouahab noticed his friend caught up in fire and decided to jump in to help him forgetting that the gasoline was on his own body too; that’s when the two started burning alive.
Abdelouahab’s “self-immolation” and subsequent death generated many responses on various social networks that supported either of two opposite views: one that regarded him as a martyr and another that saw him as undeserving of Allah’s mercy.
A noticeable disgruntled citizen commented on one of the social media networks regarding Zaidoun’s death: “They say Morocco is an exception. It is indeed an exception because even if thousands of jobless young people set themselves on fire, no-one will revolt for their lives. We are people who do not have dignity.”
Another comentator said “He, Zaidoun, will be the candle that burns itself to give light to the others.”
According to a third post: “Self-killing is Haram and self-immolation is even worse. But isn’t stealing people’s money, robbing them of their rights and persecuting them haram as well? Why do we always look at the consequences but never at the causes?”
A woman said “I can’t believe how someone who has enough faith in Allah can burn himself. It’s very depressing and we can only hope that Allah may forgive them for what they did.” This is an opinion confirmed by others like the one who stated that “This is ignorance and lack of scruples. Where is the trust in Allah? Where is the patience that Allah urges us to have? There is no religious awareness that the body and soul are not ours to burn, kill or torture; they belong to Allah the Almighty who has the power to change everything if only we have enough faith and belief.”
Zaidoun is survived by a mother, a wife, who mourned him today along with scores of friends and supporters from all over Morocco; they saw him as a hero with a noble cause rather than an unbeliever who committed suicide in the form of self-immolation. They knew him better than to simply judge him on this act.
I came to the conclusion that as long as we are unlikely to ever know what really happened there that day, we should not judge those three young people. We do not have the right to say that they willingly tried to kill themselves and that they do not deserve Allah’s mercy. It’s up to Allah to decide who deserves or does not deserve his mercy. May Abdelouahab rest in peace and may Allah grant his family patience to deal not only with his death but with people’s cruel judgments.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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