Morocco’s Islamists Are Slowly Winning

Olivier Guitta pens a most informative overview of Islamist gains in secular Moroccan life. This example seems especially telling:

Beyond the army, there are other clear signs of the rapid Islamization of Moroccan society. Nowhere is this more apparent than in women’s dress. In just a few years, Moroccan women have gone from the miniskirt to the hijab. Interviewed in the French daily Le Monde a few months ago, a Moroccan high school teacher named Soukaina (she said she was afraid to use her last name) said that she no longer recognizes her country. Twenty years ago her high school had only one veiled teacher. Today everyone is veiled, teachers and students alike. Soukaina resigned more than a year ago under subtle pressure from Islamists, who wanted her to wear the hijab. She concluded: “It is only a matter of time until Islamists are leading the country.”

That doesn’t happen without a broad-based change in attitudes. As has been the case elsewhere — including here in the US — the Islamists have displayed subtlety and long-term strategic thinking:

In such an environment it’s only natural that the leading Islamist party — the PJD (Justice and Development party), closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood — has been gaining traction.

…The PJD is your classic double speak party, carefully presenting itself as a Moroccan version of the German Christian Democrats, the soul of moderation, in order to achieve broad appeal. But its program, history, and membership leave no doubt about its real intentions.

For its part, the US may be performing miserably:

Considering (the terror links), it is baffling that Mustafa Khalfi, editor in chief of At-Tajdid, was awarded a prestigious 2005/2006 Fulbright/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship. This honor has afforded him the opportunity to work for congressman Jim McDermott of Washington, to take a course at Johns Hopkins University, and to be a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Similarly, the head of the PJD, Saad Eddine Othmani, recently visited Washington and met with members of Congress.

It’s almost enough to make you think some in Washington are quietly positioning themselves for a PJD victory.

That last bit isn’t a new thought. Back in May the Financial Times reported:

A leaked poll conducted by the US’s independent International Republican Institute earlier this year showed that up to 47 per cent of the electorate were leaning towards the party. A second just-concluded IRI poll is believed to confirm this.

…Controversy was fuelled by the IRI poll. The palace was reported to be rattled by what it saw as American meddling in Moroccan affairs while political rivals considered the poll a confirmation of their worst suspicions – that the US was secretly promoting the PJD.

An Asia Times article from 2005 elaborates:

This indirect US support is worrying, said Mohamed Benyahia, a left-wing member of parliament and former adviser to former socialist prime minister Abderrahman Youssoufi. “The US is supporting fundamentalists in the Arab world, not only in Morocco. It supports them in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia … In all times the Americans have been for Islamist regimes. They have not changed their policy.”

Benyahia, who favors the integration of moderate Islamists in the political landscape, is strongly against any US intervention in the country’s internal political affairs. “This must come from within our society,” he said. Furthermore, he regretted the “let down of modernists. The Americans have done nothing to support democrats in Morocco, nothing to support [the former government led by Youssoufi]. All they do is tell us we have to compose with the Islamists. I personally think this is strange.”

No stranger than our choosing to legitimized the regime in Iran, and our clear-cut decision not to support reformers there.