Morocco Clamps Down On Shiites

March 24, 2009

Author: Hassan Alaoui

Source: The Washington Post

Wire Service: AP

Morocco's government is clamping down on homosexuality and alleged Shiite propaganda, saying it will tackle any group that threatens moral and religious values in the Sunni Arab kingdom.

A weekend statement from the Interior Ministry about defending those values came after Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran and accused it of trying to spread Shiite Islam in the North African country.

Several independent media last week urged Morocco to grant more freedom of speech to gay activists. An Interior Ministry official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of ministry rules, said Tuesday that the statement referred to the promotion of homosexuality.

"Certain media are taking a stand for certain ignominious behaviors, which is a provocation for the national public opinion," the statement said on Saturday. "Any act contrary to moral or religious values will be repressed."

Though they coincide, the twin moves against Shiite Islam and gay advocates did not appear to be related. Earlier this month, Rabat severed diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Shiite Muslim republic of trying to spread its faith in Morocco.

Rights groups have denounced the clampdown, saying it is an unusual step for Morocco _ a nation mostly known for tolerance and openness within the Arab world.