Action against Moroccan preacher
Morocco has shut down an association belonging to a controversial religious leader after he said girls as young as nine years old could marry.
A legal action is also being brought against Mohammed Maghrawi, who made the pronouncement on his website.
Moroccan media and human-rights groups have condemned Mr Maghrawi’s words.
The religious authorities have said he is not qualified to give a fatwa, or religious opinion, and also denounced his views.
Mr Maghrawi’s association has been shut down, and his website blocked, according to senior Moroccan officials.
A Moroccan lawyer made an official complaint against him, which the courts are investigating.
The lawyer, Mourad Bekkouri, says there is a danger Mr Maghrawi could gain followers among Morocco’s large illiterate population.
“Islam has nothing to do with fatwas like this, because Islam is a noble and beautiful religion,” he said.
Mr Maghrawi, who is not in Morocco at the moment, told the TV station Al Jazeera that he had not given a Fatwa, simply made a recommendation.
There are also reports in Morocco that dozens of Koranic schools have been shut down throughout the country.
It is not clear if they are linked to Mr Maghrawi or if this is part of a wider government crackdown on perceived religious extremism.
Since suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 Morocco has been deeply concerned about rising levels of extremism, and in particular the Wahhabi school imported by Saudi Arabian-funded preachers.
Rabat – Authorities in Morocco have shut down about 60 Qur’anic schools belonging to a Muslim theologian who argues that girls as young as nine can marry, officials said on Thursday.
The authorities also plan to close down the internet site on which Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui decreed earlier this month that the marriage of nine-year-old girls is allowed by Islam.
The sheikh said his decree was based on the fact that the Prophet Mohammad consummated his marriage to his favourite wife when she was that age.
Lawyers, the media, and finally Muslim scholars rounded on Maghraoui for effectively seeking to legalise paedophilia.
The authorities finally took action on Wednesday, shutting down his headquarters in Marrakesh and dozens of his small Qur’anic schools solid around the country.
“The internet site ‘Maghrawi.net’ is going to be closed, while the headquarters of the Mohamed Maghraoui association in Marrakesh and his ‘Qur’anic Houses’ have already been closed,” a security official said.
Sheikh Maghraoui’s ‘fatwa’ or religious decree was condemned on Sunday by Morocco’s top body of Islamic scholars.
Sheik Mohammed Ben Abderahman al-Maghraoui had issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, on his Web site saying it was lawful for a Muslim man to marry a 9-year-old girl because Islam’s Prophet Mohammed had done so.
Moroccan law, however, sets 18 as the minimum age for women to marry, and the Council of the Oulemas — the country’s highest religious authority — denounced al-Maghraoui as an “agitator.”
“What the Prophet can do is not open to ordinary Muslims,” said lawyer Mourad El Bekkouri, who filed a legal complaint this month asking “the king’s prosecutor to sue al-Maghraoui for promoting pedophilia and rape.”
Al-Maghraoui was not immediately available for comment, but his Web site appeared to be accessible from outside Morocco.
Several newspapers reported that al-Maghraoui’s religious schools and his Web site were funded by Saudi Arabia, which promotes a particularly rigorous strain of Islam known as Wahhabism.
Morocco, which is a relatively tolerant Muslim country and a strong U.S.-ally, has been battling a growing tide of radical Islam in recent years. The North African kingdom has tried to balance its courtship of Western tourism with the expectations of traditionalist societies in its population.