The three threatened men say that their freedom of expression “stops when someone calls for your murder.”
Rabat – It seems as though the scary potential for the internet to ruin reputations and threaten lives has been increasingly present in Morocco’s mainstream. In the past month alone, Moroccan and international advocates have brought awareness to the damaging effects of outing gay men and the horrific ways women have been sexually exploited through revenge porn. Most recently, a Facebook page actively sought support while calling for the murder of three Moroccan influencers.
Najib El Mokhtari, Othmane Safsafi, and Marouane Lamharzi Alaoui, three Moroccan influencers who use their YouTube channels to share on scientific and historical subjects, recently became the targets of death threats from a Facebook page called “Center of Innocence.”
The administrator of the Facebook page posted a photo of the three influencers and wrote that their scientific work, largely integrated into international and Moroccan state communities, is against the principles of Islam and worthy of execution.
“How can we insult the Prophet, his religion, and God, and see [such] freedom of expression?” the post says.
The post continues, asking followers to visit “the pages of these hypocrites to read their words” and to see the “status of their supporters and fans, to discover the extent of the tragedy.”
The post concluded by exploiting a verse from the Quran intended to justify the killing of the so-called “heretics.”
The three targets
Marouane, a state engineer and founder of carte.ma, an on-demand service that manages photographs of the streets of Morocco, took to his Facebook page on behalf of the three targeted men. He explained their support for freedom of expression and their willingness to make posts that others may not agree with.
“But my freedom of expression has limits, limits for me are agreed upon by all countries and all laws,” he said, stressing that threats of killing and defamation were among those that should not be permissible.
In his call for justice, Marouane also denounced other content on the “Center of Innocence” page, calling it in-line with extremism and referencing a video that shows a terrorist carrying out a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2003, as well as pedophilic photos.
Othmane, 26, is working toward his masters in probability and statistical models at the University of Paris. He recently created a Moroccan startup that innovated a tool to predict the spread of COVID-19, made available to the Moroccan government.
Othmane also posted to his Facebook page, noting his awareness of being subject to criticism and even insults while taking on a social media presence. However, as many agree, jeopardizing someone’s life and making death threats is unacceptable—not to mention, against the law. He insisted that people could have diverging perspectives without wanting to kill each other.
The third target, Najib, is also a well-known YouTuber and Moroccan engineer and 2016 recipient of the Personality of the Year award at Maroc Web Awards. His background in astronomy and astrophysics have gained him worldwide popularity and recognition.
The influencers’ social media content is a far cry from the “anti-Islamic rhetoric” the Facebook page claims it to be.
The administrators of “Center of Innocence” now face a lawsuit and Marouane followed up with a post of gratitude toward Morocco’s General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) for their swift response to the situation. He also added thanks to journalists and friends on social media who lent support during this time.