“We were just sitting there, suddenly the police raided the café and people crowded outside, recording with their phones.” This is how one girl described a sudden security raid, during which authorities in Casablanca arrested a group of young men and women on suspicion of not fasting during Ramadan in a café in the city on Wednesday, April 27. Failing to observe the Ramadan fast is punishable according to Morocco’s law for openly breaking their fast.
The security operation resulted in numerous arrests — of both the customers and the employees of the place — in front of the cameras of local media, which defamed the young men and women. It also stated that the cafe, which is located in the center of the economic capital, used to provide its services to customers throughout the past seasons, even during the current month of Ramadan.
Caption: Police arrested the young men and women in the cafe following complaints from the residents of the neighborhood
Following the release of the detainees, a security source speaking to the Hespress news website said that the raid on the aforementioned cafe came in the context of “investigation into suspicions that crimes stipulated in the law have been committed, after news and posts had circulated about gatherings inside public establishments to deliberately eat in public during Ramadan and stir up the sentiments of the residents near these public establishments.”
The same source stated that the Public Prosecution and the judicial police “interfered within the framework of what the provisions of the law dictate to verify the supposed crimes. They launched the necessary investigations before all the detainees were released, pending the referral of all the completed records and transcripts in the case to the Public Prosecution in the form of judicial information.”
Among the arrested, more than 50 young men and women, there were young women who were in their menstruation cycle, a legitimate excuse for breaking fast. One says, “Today I am on my menstrual period, and I have the right to break my fast, and this is what happened.” She adds, “Enough with extremism in religion, we do not want a new generation that is always afraid, ruthless, and thinks the worst in others.”
A violation of the “freedom of the body”
In this context, the “Moroccan Outlaws” movement, which followed up on the case by staying in contact with some of the detainees, indicated that the young ladies were subjected to on-site inspections to search for signs of menstruation, i.e. the sanitary pad, which resulted in their release before the others.
This was denied by a security source that spoke to Hespress. It stated, “The allegations that a policewoman subjected the arrested girls to a physical test or search” are false. The source added that “the entire thing was merely limited to female judicial police officers taking the statements of the arrested girls, without subjecting them to any procedures tainted by some sort of transgression or a restriction of liberties.”
The young ladies were subjected to on-site inspections to search for signs of menstruation, which resulted in their release
For its part, Khmissa (a feminist movement) saw that the body searches done on women inside police stations is a form of cruel and degrading treatment that amounts to the same level as torture. The feminist collective pointed out that it constitutes psychological and sexual violence and a violation of privacy, calling for the establishment of laws to protect women from it.
Caption: Testimony of a young woman who was subjected to an examination to confirm that she was menstruating
Respect for religion or an insult to God!
In a poll conducted by Hespress on the reactions of a number of residents near the cafe, they praised the security for intervening out of respect for the “collective faith” of Moroccans, and stressed that they had, on more than one occasion, demanded that the cafe’s owners take the region’s religious aspect into account, asking them to steer clear of provocation, especially that done by many teenagers who had been deliberately breaking their fast and smoking in public.
On the other hand, others condemned the act, calling for the respect of “individual liberties”, and the abolition of Article 222 of the Criminal Code that criminalizes “breaking fast in public” in the country, and stipulates that “Every individual known to belong to the Islamic religion and who openly eats during the day in Ramadan, in a public place, without lawful excuse, shall be punished by imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of 12 Moroccan Dirhams (one dollar) to 120 Moroccan Dirhams (12 dollars).”
Article 222 that criminalizes “breaking fast in public” is a colonial law established by French Marshal Lyautey to show Moroccans he cares for their religion and identity to empower France in Morocco.
In this regard, political blogger and activist Mayssa Salama Ennaji denounced that “the security apparatus of Morocco, which promotes itself internationally as the land of coexistence and freedom of belief, would stick its men as mediators between worshippers and their God! Enough of the interference of the Makhzen (the ruling regime) in the religion, relations, and choices of citizens.” Meanwhile, human rights activist Karima Nadir said that this has to do with “inquisitions during a time where the model of development is taking lead”.
Moroccan actress Fatima al-Zahra al-Gohary asked, “Isn’t the punishment for those who break their fast equivalent to violating what God has dedicated for them apart from other people?” in reference to the divine hadith where Allah (SWT) said, “Every act of the son (people) of Adam is for him, except for fasting, for it is (exclusively) for Me and I (alone) will reward it.” She added, “With what right has the state become a custodian over people’s fasting and how they break their fast?”
For his part, Ismael al-Khalidi sees that if eating during the day in Ramadan in a closed cafe is considered a public iftar, “then drinking wine inside a bar would be public drunkenness, and the law punishes both public iftar and public intoxication, but the difference is the huge amounts of money that drinking pumps into their budget”. He went on to call for “implementing the law against those who are plundering billions, according to findings by a parliamentary inquiry commission.”
A strict law and a tolerant Islam
Abdelwahab Rafiqi, a researcher in Islamic studies, believes that Moroccan statute law is strict in its dealings with the issue of those who do not fast in Ramadan compared to Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), pointing out that there is no religious punishment for those who break their fast during the day in this holy month for Muslims.
Via a live broadcast on his YouTube channel, Rafiqi cited stories from the prophetic biography that reflect Prophet Muhammad’s tolerance and leniency regarding these cases, whether the person in question had broken his/her fast intentionally or not, and whether the eating was done in secret or out in the open. He pointed out that fasting is an act of worship between a person and his God and it is not right to punish people who do not practice it under the law, “otherwise, neglecting prayer is what would most require punishments such as these, because it is the most important pillar of religion after the two shahadahs.”
Rafiqi points out that Article 222 that criminalizes “breaking one’s fast in public” is a colonial law established by French Marshal Hubert Lyautey to show Moroccans that he cares for their religion and identity, so that he could empower France in the country. Rafiqi says, “Whoever defends this law today is defending French colonialism and is not defending religion.”
The Moroccan researcher points out that the role of the modern state is not to punish citizens for religious violations, but rather to frame relations within society. He goes on to further stress that punishing those who break their fast during the month of Ramadan conflicts with religion and the respect for freedom of belief at the same time.
It is reported that the Forum for Modernity and Democracy (FMD) denounced the raid done by security forces on the café in the city of Casablanca and the arrest of its inhabitants, “including a young man and woman who are members of the forum”.
In a communiqué seen by Raseef22, the forum saw the raid as a “blatant violation of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion”, denouncing the “defamation that accompanied the raid” by filming the detainees “in a complete and total violation of their privacy”.