Rabat – Last Friday Nasser Zafzafi, the leading activist of Rif protest movement who was arrested on Monday, stormed a mosque and interrupted the Imam giving the sermon in Mosque Mohammed V in Al Hoceima.
The Moroccan Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs deemed the intervention a “serious” incident. An arrest order was issued against Zafzafi the same day for “obstructing the right to worship.”
The reason given for the disruption of the Friday prayer, an action that many see as “grave and showing no respect to the sanctity of the mosque,” was Zafzafi and his followers’ discontent with the Imam’s warnings against fitna (sedition). Zafzafi and his followers refused the use of this term and described it as intending to discredit the demonstrations that have been going on for seven months to get the government to meet the protesters’ demands.
Angry at the content of the Imam’s sermon, he assumed the role of an Imam, giving a politically inspired religious speech inside the mosque.
“The Imam is endorsing corruption. They want the Rif to kneel down, they want the Gulf puppets to come and rape our women, rape our children. I am asking you, do the mosques belong to Allah or to the makhzen (traditional of Moroccan authorities)”, he shouted while his supporters were chanting “Allahu Akbar”.
The imam was also the target of his rage, accusing him of cowardice and lying.
“If he, who pretends to be an Imam, was brave enough, he would have said the truth”, said Zafzafi.
His lashing against the imam prompted a man, probably one of the people in charge of the mosque, to respond by questioning the activist’s qualification to talk about religious matters.
“I know better than you, I know better than you… leave him, I will tell you what Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, said. He said, if you see me going astray, straighten me!”, he answered back. “This was the Commander of the Faithful, may Allah be pleased with him, so why can’t we stop this Imam… How do I know? This is what was reported in the books of Sunnah.”
Emboldened by the cheers of supporters, he went on with his improvised speech, mixing religion and politics.
“Brothers, I swear by Allah, if it wasn’t for our demand for the dignity of the region, and our care for the honor of our women, we wouldn’t be here today to unmask these people.”
Zafzafi kept on talking with the same angry tone, pushing aside warnings against sedition, which he saw as a scarecrow to dissuade people from protesting.
“Brothers, they keep talking about sedition. What does sedition mean when most of the youngsters cannot provide for themselves? When most of the youngsters were pushed to emmigrate? Now they throw around the word sedition.”
The speech turned ultra-religious when he said “Is there any sedition worse than nakedness shown on TV? Is there any sedition worse than Mawazine (music festival) when naked bodies are shown on the national television of a state that calls itself Muslim? We will never tolerate this; we will never kneel to anyone but Allah …”.
The leading protest activist went on with his own “sermon” while the faithful who gathered around him, including teenagers, swelled with the religiously rebellious speech, loudly shouting “Allah Akbar”.
“Allah has blessed this popular movement and made it great and holy because we are requesting the basic rights necessary for a decent life. And now an impostor has come… as the Prophet, peace be upon him, said “My greatest fear for my Umma (Muslim nation) is misleading Imams. Here there are those imams”, he said.
“Brothers, Satan used to fear Omar Ibn Al Khattab, the Commander of the Faithful. He used to say, “if you see me going astray, straighten me.” Now, we are taking our cue from him because we saw this Imam going astray.”
Things turned personal when he started talking about himself. “For Allah’s sake, I do not fear the blame of anyone. I only want Allah to be happy with me. You can arrest me, kill me, slaughter me, I have no fear.”
He then ended his speech with going back to lashing out at the imam and accusing him of collusion with the authorities against the protesters and their families. He accused the Imam of issuing a fatwa (nonbinding legal opinion by religious expert or institution) against them, when in fact the Imam was delivering a sermon, not a fatwa.
“Do you know what this person did (the Imam)? First of all, according to Sharia, a Fatwa has its own requirements, but he was issuing a Fatwa. He agreed with the makhzen to rape our women, besiege our youngsters, and arrest them in the name of religion when religion has nothing to do with them. Religion fights corruption and tyranny, and we are following the lead of our ancestors. May Allah preserve and protect you.”