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Aujourd'hui Le Maroc is a francophone daily published in Casablanca, Morocco. Founded in 2001, it is a politically independent newspaper.
Moroccan Parliament in Rabat

Salafists In Parliament? Testing Morocco's Terrorism Prevention Model

CASABLANCA — Morocco is no stranger to the jihadist violence afflicting other Muslim countries: In 2003, a suicide bombing killed 33 people in the country's largest city, Casablanca, while a 2011 attack killed 17 in Marrakesh. But unlike most of its neighbors, Morocco has a detailed policy to reform rather than destroy followers of Salafism, the ultraconservative movement in Sunni Islam that's often considered a gateway to jihad. According to Aujourd'hui Le Maroc, even the most extreme Salafists are now joining political parties ahead of Morocco's general election in October.

It was after the Casablanca attack that Moroccan authorities embarked on a counter-radicalization program to reform local Islam by promoting a more tolerant school of thought, including acceptance of the Moroccan king's role as "Commander of the Faithful." While ostensibly ruled by parliament since reforms passed after Arab Spring protests in 2011, Morocco is still primarily run by King Mohammed VI, who holds executive power.

The monarchy pardoned several Salafist fighters in recent years, and opened a school for local and foreign imams in 2015 to exert authority over "Moroccan Islam" and suppress radical movements. Thirteen years since Casablanca, the strategy seems to be working: Prominent Salafists such as radical preacher Abdelkrim Chadli have embraced electoral politics, and many more have pledged allegiance to the monarchy. Several parties in Morocco's parliament, including the main opposition forces Istiqlal and Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), have recruited dozens of Salafists as legislative candidates for October.

Despite holding ultimate authority, the monarchy has allowed Islamists into positions of power: The Justice and Development Party, formerly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, won Morocco's first competitive elections in 2011 and installed its leader as Prime Minister. Now even the most conservative Moroccans may express their views at the ballot box, with two convicted but pardoned organizers of the Casablanca bombing in talks to run for parliament for a small royalist party.

If Morocco can continue on its path of reform, it may provide a model for other countries in the region — the Salafists say so themselves.

Smoking a cigarette in Marrakesh

Both Marijuana And Tobacco Light Up Politics In Morocco

CASABLANCA — With one proposal to criminalize tobacco and another to legalize marijuana, Moroccan politics these days is smoking. Casablanca-based daily Aujourd'hui Le Maroc reports that the governing Justice and Development Party (PJD) is proposing a law that would prohibit the sale and consumption of tobacco from hookah water pipes across the country.

The moderate Islamist PJD, formerly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, want to punish users with up to three years in jail and a 20,000 dirham ($2,050) fine, with sellers facing up to five years in prison and charged up to 50,000 dirhams ($5,130). The use of Hookah, locally known as shisha, is widely popular in Morocco, often consumed at cafés, bars and nightclubs. The PJD cites studies showing that smoking shisha tobacco is more harmful than smoking cigarettes as justification for its new policy.

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Water pipes in Marrakesh — Photo: just_a_cheeseburger

Meanwhile in the northern city of Tangier, a regional governor from an opposition party took a very different attitude to smoking — but not of tobacco. Last week human rights organizations, local groups and international representatives met at an international conference on marijuana, organized by governor Ilyas El Omari of the center-left Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). His region includes the Rif, a mountainous area famed for its cannabis production. Locally known as kif, marijuana has long been the main source of income for local farmers. The conference sought alternatives to government repression of the marijuana trade, which has decimated incomes in the impoverished region and targeted small consumers.

Representatives decried the failure of Morocco's war on drugs, and encouraged the country to rethink its potential as an increasingly popular source of marijuana for the European market. While the sale and consumption of marijuana is still illegal in the country, analysts estimate the market is worth 10% of Morocco's GDP, roughly $11.7 billion a year.

The country's second- and third-largest parties — the conservative Istiqlal party and the center-left PAM — support legalizing the medicinal and industrial use of cannabis.

Both supporters of marijuana legalization and tobacco restrictions, it turns out, say they have the same concern in mind: the health of Moroccan citizens.