|Agadir in Morocco is a popular winter destination for Western tourists
Nerijp / CC BY-SA 3.0
In some respects Morocco seems one of the most modern and secular of Muslim countries. A popular tourist destination, it allows the sale of alcohol and permits women to dress much as they wish, at least in the cities; among Arab nations it has one of the most liberal laws on women’s and family rights. Not only does the country’s constitution guarantee religious liberty; the authorities are also fairly tolerant of non-Muslim religious practice.
But the freedom experienced by Christians in Morocco is very limited and insecure. All Moroccans are considered to be Muslims, and so the government does not officially acknowledge the existence of Moroccan Christians. There are in fact a few thousand indigenous believers, who have converted from Islam, and they can meet together largely without harassment so long as they are discreet. But sharing one’s Christian faith with Muslims is punishable by a fine or imprisonment, and converts can face pressure from their communities and local authorities.
There is a small expatriate Christian community in Morocco. They too are free to gather and worship, but they are often monitored by the government and are liable to expulsion if they try to convert local Muslims; more than a hundred were deported on such charges in 2010. They risk being accused of this even if Moroccan Christians simply attend their worship services. The government also restricts the distribution of Christian literature.
During the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011, unrest in Morocco was quietened by the king’s promise of reform and the issuing of a new constitution. But the monarchy, which is believed to be sacred (the king is a direct descendant of Muhammad), has retained most of its status and power, and no concessions have been made to Christians or other minorities. Since elections held in November 2011 an Islamist group, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), have held the most parliamentary seats. The king appointed the leader of the party Prime Minister in January 2012.