The Corner

Morocco’s Deportation of Christians Threatens Its Reputation for Religious Freedom

This afternoon, Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, will hold congressional hearings to probe Morocco’s mass deportation of over 100 American and other foreign expat Christians earlier this spring. One immediate concern is whether the U.S. should suspend its pledge of nearly $700 million in aid to Morocco under its Millennium Challenge Corporation compact (MCC), since the state is no longer meeting the compact’s eligibility indicators of “ruling justly.”


In a May 19 letter to Sec. Clinton, Wolf makes a good point:

The mandate of the MCC is based on the assumption that ‘aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance.’ Rather than making strides toward accountable and democratic governance since receiving the MCC grant, Morocco has regressed…. At a time when the United States owes more in debts and commitments than the total combined net worth of all Americans, it is unacceptable to provide $697.5 million in taxpayer dollars to a nation which blatantly disregards the right of American citizens residing in Morocco and forcibly expels American citizens without due process of law.

The famously moderate Muslim government shocked religious-freedom observers when, beginning in March, its Interior Ministry rounded up and expelled within hours dozens of Christian humanitarian and social workers, educators, and businessmen. A second wave of deportations followed in April, bringing the total to 105 Christian deportees. None was afforded due process. In violation of Moroccan law, even those Christians who had lived there for a decade or more and had deep roots in the community were escorted out of the country with only hours notice and without an explanation of charges. The prestigious George Washington Academy in Casablanca has been demonized by the media and subject to state investigations. Some are saying that a cleansing of the small, mostly foreign Christian community is underway.

Precipitating these deportations were accusations by a coordinated group of Muslim hardliners that the Christians were engaged in proselytizing. Morocco’s Ambassador Aziz Mekouar explained to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom this week that conversion to Christianity is not a crime in Morocco, but proselytizing is — though the country’s penal code fails to specify what this precisely means. For example, it is unclear whether giving inducements or bribes to convert is a necessary element, or whether simply answering a question about one’s faith is also against the law.

What is clear is that Morocco is feeling the pressure of rising Islamic extremism. Seven thousand Muslim religious leaders recently signed a document describing the work of Christians within Morocco as “moral rape” and “religious terrorism,” according to Christianity Today. Some religious-freedom observers believe that outrage against the Christian aid workers was manufactured for political reasons that originated within the Organization of Islamic Conference. The ire of some state members of that Saudi-based religious association was aroused after Morocco expelled Wahhabis and Shiites. In a tacit acknowledgement that the mass deportations were aimed at placating Muslim extremists, the ambassador explained the deportations of the Christians as necessary for maintaining “public order.”

Morocco still likes to boast of being an open, inviting country, unscathed by the extremism and violence that have engulfed other nations in the region. It has been a place where Western tourists and even retirees have been welcome, where law is based on a civil code, where churches and synagogues are allowed to be built and maintained, and where Catholic, evangelical, and Jewish schools have not only been tolerated but popular among the 99 percent of the population of 33 million that are Sunni Malikite Muslims. This reputation for tolerance is waning, though, as the country bends to OIC and other sources of Islamist radicalism. Last Ramadan, police patrolled restaurants and cafes enforcing the Islamic fast for the first time, with coercive methods reminiscent of the Saudi religious police.

The Sultan of Morocco sent a letter to George Washington at Valley Forge announcing that American ships were permitted “to take refreshments and enjoy in them the same privileges and immunities as those of other nations,” making Morocco the first country to officially recognize the new United States. It seems that King Muhhamed VI’s welcome is now far chillier. At least someone in Congress is paying attention.

Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and also serves as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; the views here are her own.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More