Persecution of Ex-Muslims (Morocco)

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Growing number of converts to Christianity irk the Islamic nation[edit]

They might have Islamic names like Mohammed or Ali, but every Sunday these Moroccan converts to Christianity go discreetly to "church" - to the ire of Islamic militants and under the suspicious eye of police. "There are about a thousand of us in around 50 independent churches across the big cities of the kingdom," explained Abdelhalim, who coordinates these evangelical Protestant groups in Morocco.
. . .

Although you cannot be sentenced if you convert to Christianity, it is illegal to proselytise under Moroccan law. And while official Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches are recognised by Morocco, they are only for foreigners living in the country. Moroccan Christians have no right to pray in these churches.

However when Abdelhalim returned home seven years ago, he said he was astonished by the growing number of converts to Christianity. "At the beginning of the 1990s there were 400 of us, four years ago around 700 and today more than 1 000," he said.
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"For many of us, Islam is perceived as a social straitjacket and not as a real faith, and Christianity as a religion of tolerance and love," said the businessman, who converted at the age of 19 and was later followed by his family. Yet in the eyes of the state they remain Muslim. "Officialy, my son and I are Muslim," said Abdelhalim. "We hold Christian marriages and bless the young couple but this is not recognised by the state. They must go before the Muslim clergy and marry according to Sharia (Islamic law). If they don't do this, they can be charged with adultery."
. . .
"I have been summoned to the police station dozens of times," said Youssef. He nonetheless says that Morocco is considered more tolerant than other Muslim countries thanks to King Mohammed VI
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Radouan Benchekroun, the president of the council of Muslim scholars in Casablanca is, however, unaccommodating. "To deny one's religion, it is the biggest sin that a Muslim can commit," he said. Islamic militants insist these conversions "are not accepted by the population," according to Lahcen Daoudi, a deputy for the Islamist Justice and Development Party. "As long as it remains at the individual level we can turn a blind eye. The problem is on the social level. If there is proselytism or if children or teachers come to school with the Crucifix, we cannot tolerate that," Daoudi said.
Christian converts irk the world of Islam
Sammy Ketz, AFP, December 13, 2006

Persecution on the rise as Islamists use Facebook to vilify and expose the identities of Christian converts and their families. 7,000 Muslim clerics sign a statement denouncing all Christian activities[edit]

Facebook user Gardes Maroc Maroc has posted 32 image collages featuring dozens of Christian converts, calling them “hyena evangelists” or “wolves in lamb’s skins” who are trying to “shake the faith of Muslims.” That terminology on the website, which is in Arabic, matches that of Morocco’s anti-proselytizing law, which outlaws efforts to “shake the faith of Muslims.”

The online images depict Christian converts and their families from across the country and include details about their roles and activities in churches, their personal addresses and anecdotal stories attempting to malign them. “These are some pics of Moroccan convert hyenas,” reads one image.
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Since March, the Moroccan government has expelled more than 100 foreign Christians for alleged “proselytizing.” Authorities failed to give Christians deportation orders or enough time to settle their affairs before they left. Observers have called this a calculated effort to purge the historically moderate Muslim country, known for its progressive policies, of all Christian elements – both foreign and national. Amid a national media campaign to vilify Christians in Morocco, more than 7,000 Muslim clerics signed a statement denouncing all Christian activities and calling foreign Christians’ aid work “religious terrorism.”
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Moroccan Christians told Compass that authorities had begun harassing them even before the forced deportations of foreigners, and that pressure from officials only intensified in March and April. Since the deportations started in early March, it seems that authorities, extremists and society as a whole have colluded against them, local Christians said. Dozens of Christians have been called to police stations for interrogation. Many of them have been threatened and verbally abused. “They mocked our faith,” said one Moroccan Christian who requested anonymity. “They didn’t talk nicely.”

Authorities interrogated the convert for eight hours and followed him for three weeks in March and April, he said. During interrogation, he added, local police told him they were prepared to throw him in jail and kill him. Another Moroccan Christian reported that a Muslim had taken him to court because of his Christian activities. Most Moroccan Christians that spoke to Compass said the attitudes of their Muslim relatives had shifted, and many have been kicked out of their homes or chosen to leave “to not create problems” for their families.

Netherlands refuses Christian convert's asylum application and expels him back to Morocco. Rejected by family and forced to move from his home village, he's now serving 15 years in jail for speaking openly about his faith[edit]

Nearly five years into the prison sentence of the only Christian in Morocco serving time for his faith, Moroccan Christians and advocates question the harsh measures of the Muslim state toward a man who dared speak openly about Jesus.

By the end of December Jamaa Ait Bakrim, 46, will have been in prison for five years at Morocco's largest prison, Prison Centrale, in Kenitra. An outspoken Christian convert, Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years prison for "proselytizing" and destroying "the goods of others" in 2005 after burning two defunct utility poles located in front of his private business in a small town in south Morocco.

Advocates and Moroccan Christians said, however, that the severity of his sentence in relation to his misdemeanor shows that authorities were determined to put him behind bars because he persistently spoke about his faith.
. . .
"Jamaa is a manifestation of a very inconvenient truth for Moroccan authorities: there are Moroccan converts to Christianity," said Logan Maurer, a regional director at U.S.-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC). "The government wants to ignore this, suppress it, and when—as in Jamaa's case—the problem won't go away, they do whatever they can to silence it."
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Recently Morocco has used the [Proselytism] law to punish any proclamation of non-Muslim faith, contradicting its pledge to allow freedom to manifest one's faith under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory. Article 18 of the covenant affirms the right to manifest one's faith in worship, observance, practice or teaching.

The covenant also states, however, that "freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others."
Moroccan Convert Serving 15 Years for His Faith
Compass Direct, September 17, 2010
Nearly seven years into the prison sentence
. . .

He acknowledged his Christian faith during the trial, but denied accusations that he approached his neighbors to "undermine their Muslim faith," according to Christians familiar with the situation.

Bakrim, who has a bachelor degree in political science, reportedly became a Christian in the 1990s while traveling in Europe. In 1993 he applied for political asylum in the Netherlands but was refused and expelled back to Morocco when his visa expired, according to activists involved in the case.
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He was also incarcerated at a mental hospital, although his supporters said he had no mental illness.

Two years later he was prosecuted for putting up a Christian cross in public and spent a further year in prison, Christians said.

After his release, Bakrim was rejected by his family and forced to move from his home village to the city of Massa, according to rights groups. He resisted pressure to convert back to Islam and was sentenced again.

By the end of December, Jamaa Ait Bakrim, 48, will have been behind bars for seven years, mainly at Morocco’s largest prison, Prison Centrale, in the northwestern city of Kenitra.
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The government of this North African kingdom of over 32-million people has defended its policies. It says the targeted Christians "have violated" the Islamic country's religious traditions and legislation "banning proselytizing".

Christian Convert from Islam stabbed multiple times by 4 Muslim men as he leaves a house church. They claim he "dishonored his family and Islam by becoming a kafir". He regains consciousness after three days[edit]

We are glad to inform you that our client, a former Muslim from Morocco, has been granted asylum in the United States. Our client, Z, whose name has been kept confidential for security reasons, is a young Christian who grew up in a wealthy and strong Muslim family in Morocco. After his conversion to Christianity, he was attacked by radical Muslims and was stabbed multiple times. After losing a lot of blood and remaining unconscious for three days, Z was miraculously saved.

Z told the ACLJ that he was brought up in a “purely traditional Islamic way and had a burning desire since adolescence to be a good Muslim in the eye of Allah and to make his family proud of him.” At a very young age Z was sent to a Moroccan mosque to study the Quran for four years. However, Z said that “the more I tried to know Allah, the more I became afraid of him.” Z’s fear came to an end when he met with a Christian schoolmate in Europe. When Z shared Islam with this schoolmate, he says, “instead of being amazed and convinced of what I had said to her, she simply told me that she already has Jesus Christ, and she is scared of nothing.” Z started a comparative study of the Quran and the Bible. While studying the Bible, Z said, “the thing that struck me the most was that no one can ever be good enough to deserve God’s favor, to win God’s heaven, because from birth we are all pre-disposed to rejecting God and living our lives our own way. That’s why it was necessary for God himself to shrink into a human body and die on the cross, dying the death we deserve.”

Z left Islam and started secretly living as a Christian. In 2010, when he was attending a secret house church in Morocco and going to an internet cafe to fulfill his need to listen to worship songs and sermons, he was approached by four men as he left his house. The men surrounded him and said they knew that he had left Islam and dishonored his family and Islam by becoming a kafir (infidel). The men stabbed Z multiple times and left him for dead. One of Z’s neighbors saw him lying on the ground, bleeding. He took Z to the hospital where he underwent two surgeries. He gained consciousness after three days and thanked God for saving his life. Z came to the United States and contacted the ACLJ. Our legal team filed for asylum and within just four months, Z was interviewed and granted asylum. Z is currently attending a Bible school where he is continuously growing in his Christian faith.

In recent years, Morocco has been very unwelcoming of Christian foreigners and has expelled many from the country. And, just last year, at least 14 Christian converts were arrested in Morocco. In 2005, a Christian convert was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Ex-Muslim atheist activist who received several death threats, now in hiding after police interrogate his father at work and break into what they thought was his home. If found, he faces a possible trial and prison sentence[edit]

The whereabouts of Moroccan student Imad Eddin Habib, 22, are unknown since yesterday, April 29 in the evening. A few days ago, plainclothes policemen interrogated his father at his workplace. They wanted to know whether Imad was supported by a foreign organization, what his goals and motives were… Yesterday, Apr 29, they broke into an address that is mentioned on the young man’s ID—only to find out that he doesn’t live there anymore. Informed that he was a wanted individual, the Casablanca paramedical student decided to go underground. It will probably not take long before he resurfaces. Yet, that might be long enough for a solidarity campaign to start.

Imad Eddin Habib is not a criminal—at least not under international law and international treaties on freedom of speech and conscience. The reason why the Moroccan police is after him, is that he’s an outspoken atheist.

In the Islamic kingdom of Morocco, atheism itself is not a criminal offense. “Shaking the Muslim’s faith” is. Under this vague designation, anyone openly criticizing Islam or promoting any other religion can be condemned to a prison term ranging from 6 months to 3 years (Christian missionaries are regularly expelled from the kingdom in virtue of this article.) In other words: when you live in Morocco, you can think whatever you want of religion, but you better keep it for yourself.
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Given his incessant activism, it didn’t take long before Imad was noticed by Hespress, Morocco’s premier news website. In an article dated April 29 and titled “Infidels of Islam: stories of Moroccans who went out of the flock”, the young Casablanca student was presented as “The man who holds a grudge against Islam”. Under Imad’s infamous ice-cream picture, the site quotes him saying: “it just takes an objective reading of the Quran to understand that these are myths invented by humans”. This was not, by all means, his most provocative statement. But Hespress’s large circulation gave Imad an exposure he never had before. A few hours later, the police would knock at his family’s door. As for now, we still don't know whether there is a formal arrest warrant against him.

One of Imad’s latest posts before he went underground was a paraphrase of the Shahada, Islam’s profession of faith, apparently aimed at those who menace him: “There is no God but… Mickey Mouse!” “Immature provocation, only meant to generate a Facebook buzz”, as said an annoyed detractor on Twitter? Maybe. But does this justify the 500+ insults response it received anyway, including a couple of frank death calls? Does it justify a trial, probably followed by a prison sentence?

At the time of this writing (Monday Apr 29, 2013, midnight), Imad is still hiding. But this won’t last long. An arrest could ensue, followed by a trial that is likely to get high media attention, because it would be the first time a Moroccan citizen is sued for atheism. Imad, who comes from a modest background, can’t afford a good attorney. Morocco’s hotshot lawyers usually rush to offer pro bono representation to famed journalists and political dissidents. Would they do the same with someone who took on the ultimate taboo—God? Wait and see.
Breaking: Wanted For Atheism!
Ahmed Benchemsi, Free Arabs, April 30, 2013