New York - The arrest earlier this week of two preachers for alleged adultery is raising questions about Morocco’s moral foundation.
New York – The arrest earlier this week of two preachers for alleged adultery is raising questions about Morocco’s moral foundation.
Morocco is a nation of both commitment and contradiction, Honor and “Hasshuma” (Shame in Darija), Salafis and Secularists.
But no other recent event has shone more light on Moroccan society and created such a groundswell of debate than the arrest of two Islamist preachers for – of all things—Adultery.
Moulay Omar Benhammad and Fatima Nejjar were arrested at a beach on Monday allegedly in “a sexual pose” and “in the act of adultery,” said police.
Benhammad, who is married with seven children, was charged with adultery and “attempted corruption” of the police. While Nejjar, a widow with six children, was charged with “complicity in adultery.”
Their tryst led to their suspension from the Islamic Unity and Reform Movement (MUR), a firestorm of opinions throughout Morocco, and a lots of explaining to do.
Benhammad said in his defense that he is linked to Nejjar by a customary marriage, according to Al-Ahdath. Customary marriages are illegal in both Islam and under the laws of Morocco.
Good, bad and indifferent; much more of this scandal will come to light as the couple are scheduled to appear in court on September, 1.
What were Benhammad, 63, and Fatima Nejjar, 62, actually doing in that car so early in the morning? Why did they leave Rabat to secret themselves on a beach so many kilometers away from their base? Were the police following them? Why didn’t Benhammad’s wife press charges?
So many questions, very few definitive answers.
Some smell political intrigue since the national elections are about to be held in October.
The majority, however, say it is a case of sheer unmitigated hypocrisy. Benhammad holds a PhD in Islamic Studies while Nejjar is known for the lectures where she tells young Muslim women to abstain from sex outside of marriage. A nine-minute video of Nejjar extoling the virtues of sexual chastity has been viewed throughout Moroccan society. Neither practiced what they preach.
But beyond the casting of stones is an underlying question, which Moroccan society and maybe the entire Islamic world must ask:
What role should government play in an individual’s sex life?
Under Moroccan law, extra-marital sex is punishable by a jail term of between one month and a year.
Under Moroccan law, a Moroccan must show an “acte de marriage” before they can rent a hotel room.
Under Moroccan law, a Muslim women cannot marry a non-Muslim man.
For those with Islamist sentiments, these are laws which protect the society. For more liberal, secularist it is an unwarranted restriction of their freedom to choose.
“In an open and free society, a public authority cannot establish as morality police,” writes Abellah Turabi, a columnist and journalist, in a piece published in Huffington Post.
Turabi brings to question the establishment of “an Islamic utopia” versus coming to grips with raw human nature.