Despite undergoing revisions in the meantime and integration into the Moroccan penal code, the anti-terror law continues to draw criticism from both Moroccan and international human rights groups.

Security forces granted a firm hand

Thirdly, within the context of the anti-terror law, Morocco grants its security apparatus a firm hand in the fight against extremism. Through the provision of substantial financial means, security forces should be equipped and trained to be able to eliminate any kind of terrorist threat. But because of the repression associated with anti-terror operations, their preventive approach has been heavily criticised by human rights organisations at home and abroad.

Moroccan author Ali Anouzla (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Moroccan author and journalist Ali Anouzla was responsible for ″″, a website banned by the Moroccan authorities in 2013. In the same year Anouzla received a "Leaders for Democracy" award from the U.S. organisation POMED. Since March 2016 he has been a guest of the Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted People

But despite the hard-line stance pursued by Morocco for some time now, the nation is still regarded as the world's largest "terrorist exporter". In a statement to parliament in April this year, the Interior Minister said the number of Moroccans joining IS had increased by around 600 percent. In absolute numbers, this added up to 1,631 people at the time.

The authorities are also still going public on the number of "terror cells" successfully broken up, a total of more than 168 so far. In this endeavour, security forces have to date arrested more than 3,000 suspects, most of them sentenced to prison terms. Furthermore, the authorities report almost weekly on the discovery of new cells and the arrest of people suspected of having planned terror attacks.

Restructuring at a religious level

The fourth level of the Moroccan strategy to combat extremism is a large-scale project to re-structure the country's religious domain. This involved the creation of state institutions for religious education and instruction, as well as a restructuring of the High Council of Ulemas (Muslim religious scholars), in accordance with the constitution led by the King as the head of the faithful. The newly-established public radio station "Radio Mohamed du Saint Coran" aims to convey religious guidelines and channel religious discourse through a diverse range of media.

Considerable sums are being made available to the Ministry for Islamic Affairs for the restructuring. It has been led for 14 years by a minister from the Sufi tradition, who attempted to make Sufism an "official religion" of the state, as a way of pushing back political, Salafist and jihadist Islam.

The outcome of this has been the emergence, from Sufism, of a sphere of religious favouritism, from which Sufi circles and their followers have profited. The margins however were left to political, Salafist and jihadist Islam. It is precisely these margins that produce the youngsters who join the terror organisations in the West and go to Syria, Iraq and Libya.

A little more than 14 years after Morocco implemented its plan to combat terror and extremism, it is time for a critical evaluation of and reflection on this policy which, although it has so far prevented further terror attacks in Morocco, has not been able to stop the country's youth from falling into the hands of the extremists. It is time to act. 

Ali Anouzla

© 2017

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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