Morocco: Ramadan Fast Break Protesters Arrested

Break the rules of fasting is "haram" (forbidden) for Muslims in Morocco and can be punished by a sentence of one to six months in prison and fines of almost 100 euros, according to Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code.
To protest against "this interference in private life," the Movement for defense of individual liberties (MALI) launched an appeal through Facebook to symbolically break the fast before sunset and protest the Law.
The meet up was at the train station of Mohammedia, a few miles from Casablanca. 70 people indicated their intention to attend but only a dozen made it through a cordon of security personnel. "We have called a lot of people because we were surprised by the heavy police presence that we encountered" said Ms. Zineb Elghzaoui, journalist and a founder of MALI along with Ibtissam Lachgar , a psychologist.

More than a hundred officers, including riot and mounted police and military personnel had besieged the station and its environs .

"We had to show our backpacks and when they saw we had food, they [police] forced us to return to Casablanca on the next train," explained Lachgar.

The security forces were also keeping back local youth groups who were attempting to confront the Ramadan-fast-breaking-protesters. With the presence of a large contingent of European Reporters, a violent confrontation would confirm prejudices about the propensity for violence of Muslim conservatives.

The following day headlines such as “100 policemen against 10 sandwiches in Morocco” were splashed across Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

"Our aim was to show that we are Moroccans, but that we do not fast, and that we have a right to exist," said Ms. Elghzaoui. “And although the Moroccan Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, each year there are arrests’ for public fast breaking, she added.

A government security spokesperson denied that any arrests were made this year for public eating during the month of Ramadan.

Ms. Elghzaoui spoke about the case of a citizen who was attacked and denounced in the city of Fez and handed to the police by civilian vigilantes last year for drinking in the street. He was free hours later, after his family showed he was a diabetic.

Only children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant, lactating or menstruating women are exempt.

The Official Moroccan Council of Ulema (theologians) denounced the protesters stunt and described them as "agitators".

According to supporters of the Movement for defense of individual liberties (MALI) , the Moroccan police has launched a campaign of arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday among the founders of the movement (MALI) that included the arrest of reporters Mr. Abdel Aziz el Yakoubi and Mr. Abdul Rahim mouqtafi, followed by the arrest of journalist Ms. Zineb Elghzaoui Wednesday morning at her house.

The group has recently revealed that members of the "Mali" had been subjected to death threats via e-mails. The group said in a published statement that the government has adopted a "policy of pandering to Islamic extremists by issuing a condemnation of the journalist Zainab lghzaoui" and that it is "a veiled incitement to the mob of Islamists and conservatives and a direct threat to the life of the reporter."

It is the first time on record that a group has protested against the Ramadan Law in Morocco. The group has used facebook as a rallying tool to organize the protest, which tipped off the police of their plans in advance.

Moroccans have one of the highest internet use rate in Africa and have recently made use youTube and other social media tools for various social actions.

17 September 2009

Source: MoroccoBoard