By Majid Morceli
By Majid Morceli
San Francisco – It’s no secret that Morocco’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and Morocco needs every bit of good news to keep the tourists coming.
What do Moroccan authorities do when the tourists are thinking twice before booking their ticket to Morocco in light of the beheading of the French citizen in Algeria, and the participation of France and others in the air strike against the terrorist group ISIS? The Moroccan answer is simple: they jailed a British man for four months for being gay according to his family.
Ray Cole, 70, was arrested while visiting his friend, or male lover, depending on whose telling the story. Not surprising, the Moroccan authorities had been reluctant to even reveal the whereabouts of the British tourist according to his son.
Now everyone in England and beyond is calling for boycotting Morocco. British Parliament members are already threatening Morocco with dire consequences if they do not release Mr. Cole immediately. This brings back memories of 2008, when a Moroccan teenager was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for allegedly writing, “God, Nation, Barça” on the blackboard at his school. Morocco’s motto is, “God, Nation, King.” And remember the romantic kiss? To remind you, two Moroccan teenagers were arrested for being a ‘danger to social order’ after the photo they posted kissing on Facebook was picked up and printed by a local paper.
Is this the type of publicity that Morocco needs to bring tourists who are the source of income to thousands of Moroccan families?
Many will argue that Morocco is a Muslim country and everyone should go by the established rules. Fair enough, but let me remind you that in Morocco there are hundreds of bars, and Alcohol is haram – forbidden- just like homosexuality is haram in Islam. Are foreign-born homosexuals more dangerous to society than those Moroccans who get drunk and go beat their wives and children?
How can this British man be a danger to society when he simply went to visit his Moroccan lover? Why did the Moroccan authorities confiscate his phone without any due process? He’s not the first nor the last who will visit Morocco for reasons other than seeing snake charmers in Jamaa el fna.
If Moroccan officials do not want people with different sexual orientations visiting the kingdom, they simply need to make it very clear in the laws in place, the same way it is done in Saudi Arabia or Iran, that if you are gay and you visit the country, you will be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed, and if you are lucky to make it out alive from jail, you will be sent back to where you came from.
It is wrong to tell people that we are the exception and fool them into thinking that we are a secular country, when in fact we are not. This current “Islamic” government needs to understand that it cannot jeopardize the lives of thousands of Moroccans who depend on tourism. Morocco is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. At least these two countries can afford to be thinking backwards—we can’t.
By arresting this British citizen, there will be a tremendous pressure on the king to “pardon” him. Why put the king in an embarrassing situation where he is forced to release people from jail for crimes that are not supposed to be crimes?
Was he hurting anyone like the Spanish pedophile who was “mistakenly” released from Moroccan jail? Was he really a danger to society? Ignorance is the danger to society, and those who are holding Morocco hostage to their backward thinking are the danger to all of us.
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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