Christians in Morocco Fear Fatwa Portends Harsher Treatment Morningstar News, May 4, 2013
CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) – A Moroccan fatwa calling for the execution of those who leave Islam has left many Christian converts in turmoil.
There is still much debate over how the fatwa, which only recently came to light after the government’s top authority on Islam issued it last year, could change laws in Morocco. But a Moroccan Christian convert active in the house church movement said many former Muslims who are now Christians fear for their lives.
“The fatwa showed us that our country is still living in the old centuries – no freedom, no democracy,” he said. “Unfortunately, we feel that we aren’t protected. We can be arrested or now even killed any time and everywhere.”
The Marrakech resident, who requested anonymity, said many Moroccan converts feel the same way.
“The majority of the Christian Moroccan leaders have the same feeling,” he said. “We are more followed now by the secret police than before. Only the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us courage and peace.”
The governmental High Council of Ulemas, the highest religious authority in Morocco, issued the ruling last year, but only released it in April upon request of the government’s Delegation for Human Rights of Morocco, according to Arabic-language daily Akhbar al-Youm. The human rights delegation was seeking clarification on the Islamic stance on freedom of religion. But Mahjoub El Hiba, a senior human rights official in the government, denied there was any such request to the Moroccan Press Agency, Morocco’s official government news service.
In a publication explaining its ruling, the high council said it based its decision in part on verses from the Koran, and in part on verses from the Hadith – one that quotes Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, as saying, “If somebody [a Muslim] discards his religion, kill him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 3017)
Islamic scholars use the Hadith, also known as the “Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet,” along with the Koran as a basis for determining sharia (Islamic law).
Members of the high council are appointed by the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs, which is led at least in theory by King Mohammed VI. But the high council is essentially an advisory body, has no connection to Morocco’s criminal judicial system and cannot enforce its ruling. Whether the fatwa will have any effect on Moroccan criminal law remains to be seen – there are too many variables, said a representative of Middle East Concern, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians.