“King Mohamed VI is the latest leader to face the dilemma of whether to co-opt the adherents of political Islam, oppress them, or leave them be and run the risk that they use democratic mechanisms to carry out a hard-line agenda “” and ultimately threaten democracy itself.”
“Islamic party set for Moroccan victory,” by Angela Charlton for the Associated Press:
CASABLANCA, Morocco – The Islamic party dominating Morocco’s electoral season has many faces “” among them bareheaded young women in jeans, marketing students preaching the gospel of global markets and legions of the poor and disenfranchised.
Impose Sharia, and everyone will get to be poor and disenfranchised.
The Justice and Development Party’s cross-class, antiestablishment appeal could
leave it the largest party in parliament after elections Friday. And that would pose a
challenge to the secular monarchy, and its Western allies.
This resort-lined Muslim kingdom forms one front in the broader battle playing
out between forces of moderation and extremism across the Muslim world. King Mohamed VI is
the latest leader to face the dilemma of whether to co-opt the adherents of political Islam, oppress them, or leave them be and run the risk that they use democratic mechanisms to carry out a hard-line agenda “” and ultimately threaten democracy itself.
Such fears lay behind neighboring Algeria’s decision to abort 1992 parliamentary elections that an Islamic party was poised to win. The move touched off an insurgency that still simmers.
“Our victory … is nothing to worry about,” said Saad Eddine Othmani, head of
the Justice and Development Party. “Moderate Islam is the best rampart against extremism.”
And your idea of “moderation” is…?
The party cites Islam as its inspiration in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim, but where many women shun head coverings and bars are widespread. Its leadership and message are moderate, though some members may hold radical views.
The Islamic party’s platform “” streamline bureaucracy, root corruption out of the courts and gear university education more directly toward the job market “” resonates among the poor and jobless, who feel abandoned by a government widely seen as self-serving.
The Justice and Development Party accepts the monarch, and wants Morocco to
maintain good relations with Washington. U.S. officials say they deal with the party as they do with Morocco’s other political parties.
Othmani said his party has softened its image in recent years “” especially after 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca blamed on Islamic terrorists “” to
broaden its base. It has played down calls by hard-liners inside the party to cut off thieves’ hands and require women to wear head scarves.
Some fear an Islamic-minded government could nonetheless threaten Morocco’s
moderate reputation, which helps fuel an economy reliant on tourism.
“I have the impression they are hiding their real ideas. This is what worries us,” said Amina Elhaja, pushing her 2-year-old son in a stroller past a Justice and Development Party rally on a dusty lot, where supporters chanted “Justice, Development!”
Mustapha Ramid is the face of the party that secularists fear. A defense attorney for terror suspects, he is loudly critical of Israel and the Moroccan government.
“For now, the goal is to develop democracy,” said Ramid. But in the long
run, Ramid wants sharia, or Islamic law, established in Morocco.