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Blogger Jailed for Having an Opinion

Mohamed Erraji, a Moroccan blogger, was just sentenced to two years in prison for writing the words I’ve translated below. For the original Arabic go here, for the French translation go here. Nearly everything he wrote, I’ve heard at one time or another in private conversation, so I can testify that while his views aren’t universally shared, they certainly aren’t out of the mainstream either. The crime therefore isn’t his views, which are common enough, nor his immoderate language (there isn’t any), but the simple fact that he put them in print.

It’s never a sign of strength if a state needs to put its young people in prison for saying what they think. Rather, it is a sign of insecurity and weakness. Let’s hope the Moroccan government corrects its error before this becomes yet another stain on its international reputation. If you’d like to sign a petition to free Mohamed Erraji, go here, or if you are a Facebook member go here. For Arabic readers (I’m not one) here is Erraji’s blog to get a more complete sense of his views.

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The King Encourages the People’s Dependency
by Mohamed Erraji

The king was driving in his car as he likes to do, and with him was his oldest son the crown prince. At a traffic circle the king stopped next to the policeman whose job it was to direct traffic and asked his son, who is five years old, if he would like to be a policeman when he grows up. Instead of the king’s son, it was the policeman who answered, saying that he hopes the crown prince will succeed to the throne of his glorious ancestors. Then the policeman launched into praising the king. The king of course appreciated what the policeman was saying, and in exchange immeditately gave him the gift of a “grima” [taxi permit]. The king in question is Mohammed VI.

If this story, reported by the newspaper Al Jareda Al Aoula, is true, then Moroccans should realize that there won’t be any change even if we wait for the reign of Hassan III.

There is no denying that what has destroyed our country and won it its shameful ranking in the world, is the patronage economy that profits the well-to-do and not the people. Obviously we don’t need politicians’ fancy words to tell us what handouts are. They are, quite simply, the unfair appropriation of other people’s rights. That goes for the transportation permits, or “grimas,” that the king distributes to citizens who ask for his help in written letters, in the same way that beggars plead for the charity of passersby. States that respect their citizens don’t turn them into beggars who plead for charity from the glorious throne, but build factories and industries for them in order to let them earn a living with dignity and respect. Let’s suppose, though it’s certainly not the case, that these permits are only distributed to those who deserve them, the poor and rejected; it would be no less true that this dishonors the Moroccan citizen. Jobs, health and education are rights guranteed by the constitution, and the state must provide its citizens with a dignified quality of life instead of humiliating them in this way.

But again, the king can’t attribute these permits to his good will alone, without control or supervision, in offering them to anyone who praises him. Because this contributes to the formation of armies of courtesans who instead of earning a living from the sweat of their brows, do so by reeling off acclamations and praises that often aren’t credible. In this way, the king encourages the people’s dependency.

This turns Moroccans into a people without dignity, who live on gifts and donations, even though we don’t need somone who pities us, but rather someone who can guarantee that the nation’s wealth is shared in an equitable fashion. Think of the Algerian president who said that unlike the Moroccans, he doesn’t distribute Ramadan soup to the poor, but rather keys to furnished apartments. And even if we know that Moroccans and Algerians live in the same conditions, it would still be helpful for the Moroccan authorities to reflect on what President Bouteflika said and stop acting towards us as if we were pitiful beggars at the mercy of the mockery of friends and enemies.

[I’ve omitted a few paragraphs that discuss the practice of giving out favors to successful sports heros.]

The developed nations have gotten to where they are, not by being indulgent with certain of their citizens, but in treating them according to the principle of one law for all. Not in distributing the nation’s wealth to the lucky ones as we do, but in investing it for the common good without distinction. And that’s what is lacking in Morocco to end the confusion of our crippled politics.

When the crown prince reigns one day and sees how his father distributed gifts and donations to people for the least word of praise or acclamation, he will no doubt govern by following the same logic. As a result we have no choice but to postpone our dreams of a Morocco with justice and equal opportunity until the reign of Mohammed VII which will arrive after the reign of Hassan III, the current crown prince.


Comment from Myrtus
Time: September 11, 2008, 10:46

Erraji is FREE today! :D

Comment from eatbees
Time: September 11, 2008, 13:19

This whole story has happened so fast it makes my head spin. Arrest Thursday, interrogation Friday, sentencing in a closed trial Monday, and now “provisional release.” I hope he stays out, but all he’s won so far is the right to a second trial, presumably with a lawyer present this time!

Comment from Amine
Time: September 11, 2008, 23:49

72 hours to jail, 72 hours to unjail, hopefully he’ll be acquitted in 72 hours (ok, maybe 96)…yeah, definitely makes the head spin…

Comment from Hisham
Time: September 12, 2008, 17:05

Stupidest regimes on earth: First you jail him, then you retract… later you confirm the sentence and then you pardon him.

In which planet does the King and his friends live?

Something is for sure: they are utterly disconnected from the people they ought to serve.

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