Morocco: Ramadan Fast Break Protesters Arrested
More than a hundred officers, including riot and mounted police and military personnel had besieged the station and its environs .
"We had to show our backpacks and when they saw we had food, they [police] forced us to return to Casablanca on the next train," explained Lachgar.
The security forces were also keeping back local youth groups who were attempting to confront the Ramadan-fast-breaking-protesters. With the presence of a large contingent of European Reporters, a violent confrontation would confirm prejudices about the propensity for violence of Muslim conservatives.
The following day headlines such as “100 policemen against 10 sandwiches in Morocco” were splashed across Spain and elsewhere in Europe.
"Our aim was to show that we are Moroccans, but that we do not fast, and that we have a right to exist," said Ms. Elghzaoui. “And although the Moroccan Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, each year there are arrests’ for public fast breaking, she added.
A government security spokesperson denied that any arrests were made this year for public eating during the month of Ramadan.
Ms. Elghzaoui spoke about the case of a citizen who was attacked and denounced in the city of Fez and handed to the police by civilian vigilantes last year for drinking in the street. He was free hours later, after his family showed he was a diabetic.
Only children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant, lactating or menstruating women are exempt.
The Official Moroccan Council of Ulema (theologians) denounced the protesters stunt and described them as "agitators".
According to supporters of the Movement for defense of individual liberties (MALI) , the Moroccan police has launched a campaign of arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday among the founders of the movement (MALI) that included the arrest of reporters Mr. Abdel Aziz el Yakoubi and Mr. Abdul Rahim mouqtafi, followed by the arrest of journalist Ms. Zineb Elghzaoui Wednesday morning at her house.
The group has recently revealed that members of the "Mali" had been subjected to death threats via e-mails. The group said in a published statement that the government has adopted a "policy of pandering to Islamic extremists by issuing a condemnation of the journalist Zainab lghzaoui" and that it is "a veiled incitement to the mob of Islamists and conservatives and a direct threat to the life of the reporter."
It is the first time on record that a group has protested against the Ramadan Law in Morocco. The group has used facebook as a rallying tool to organize the protest, which tipped off the police of their plans in advance.
Moroccans have one of the highest internet use rate in Africa and have recently made use youTube and other social media tools for various social actions.
17 September 2009
Morocco's penal code states, in article 222 that, "A person commonly known to be Muslim who violates the fast in a public place during Ramadan, without having one of the justifications allowed by Islam, shall be punished by one to six months of prison" and a fine.
Article 222 exempts Morocco's non-Muslim minorities - such as Jews and non-Muslim foreigners - from the ban on public eating during Ramadan. However, its application to persons "commonly known to be Muslim" appears to deny to those the state considers Muslims the right to declare themselves to be either non-Muslims or Muslims who choose not to observe the fast.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a signatory, states in article 18:
"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief. ... Freedom to manifest one's religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect ... public morals."
The covenant also protects freedom of association and of opinion, with governments' ability to put restrictions on these rights also similarly strictly limited.