Rabat – Thursday, May 16th is the 10th day of Ramadan and marks the 60th anniversary of the death of the great Moroccan sultan, Sidi Mohammed V 1909-1961). In 1957, he became the first official king of an independent Morocco after he had strategically fought the French rule which had installed him as Sultan.
The date of his anniversary is calculated according to the Islamic calendar.
Born in Fes, Morocco, Sidi Mohammed V was the third son of Sultan Mulway Yusef.
Upon his father’s death, it is said that “French authorities chose him to be successor, expecting him to be more compliant than his two older brothers.” Sidi Mohammed V eventually joined the Independence Party of 1944, also called “Istiqlal,” which was a group from the growing nationalist movement. He was obliged to support the nationalist movement in secret so that the French would not suspect a Moroccan rebellion.
Sidi Mohamed V took the French by surprise in 1947, when giving a speech at Tangiers. Rather than continuing with the text, the French authorities had approved, Mohammed Ben Youssef delivered his own speech showing his support for the nationalist cause. The choice to give a different speech is one of the many courageous acts as a patriot before the country was an independent nation for which Sidi Mohammed will be remembered.
It is due to Sidi Mohammed V’s efforts that Morocco now has The Manifesto of Independence (1944).
An advocate for Moroccan citizens of all faiths
Another accomplishment during his lifetime is his refusal to allow Moroccan Jews to be sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust. Sidi Mohammed V performed his duty as Commander of the Faithful by protecting the Abrahamic faiths of Morocco. At a meeting with Nazis and Vichy France, he famously said, “There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only Moroccan subjects.”
“I absolutely do not approve of the new antisemitic laws and I refuse to associate myself with a measure I disagree with,” he said. “I reiterate as I did in the past that the Jews are under my protection and I reject any distinction that should be made amongst my people.”
His vision of equality touched many hearts as was evident when he died due to complications from surgery and 75,000 Jews “publicly mourned” Morocco’s loss. The country had only been independent for four years at the time of his death.
Among the many memorable things about him, “his gaze was attentive, and he possessed an ironic sense of humor that he revealed to friends and relatives.”