Morocco sex debate rages after imam’s death call
RABAT — The call by a radical Moroccan imam for the death of a journalist who spoke out in defence of sexual freedom has ignited a fierce debate between Islamists and secularists in a country torn between modernity and religious tradition.
Abdellah Nhari, an imam in the northeastern Oujda region, who is well known for his controversial pronouncements, declared in a recent sermon that Elmokhtar Laghzioui was a “dayoute,” or cuckold in colloquial Arabic, and that in Islam “the ‘dayoute’ should be killed.”
Nhari was reacting to Laghzioui’s remarks, on a satellite television channel, indicating that he supported personal, and in particular sexual freedom, even in the case of one’s “mother or sister.”
Around 100 journalists held a sit-in on Thursday outside the headquarters of the newspaper in Casablanca where Laghzioui works, to protest against Nhari’s comments, denounce “terrorism in the name of religion,” and voice their support for freedom of expression.
The imam has since insisted that his words, which were swiftly disseminated by social networks and the local press, did not amount to calling for the death of the journalist.
But the public prosecutor in Oujda has ordered a judicial inquiry into the case, fuelling the debate on sexual freedom that was rekindled with the opening last month of a theatre production in Rabat openly supporting freedom for women.
The production was a Moroccan adaptation of “The Vagina Monologues,” an award-winning play by US author Eve Ensler that celebrates female sexuality and focuses on the abuses women suffer.
The mostly secular defenders of sexual freedom in Morocco want to see the abolition of article 490 of the penal code, which stipulates a prison sentence of one year and one month for anyone caught having extra-marital sex.
In reality, sex outside marriage is common in Morocco and largely tolerated, with unmarried couples behaving discreetly.