Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2016, 15:18 GMT

Morocco: Concern for academic targeted for comments about religious texts

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 1 May 2013
Cite as Article 19, Morocco: Concern for academic targeted for comments about religious texts, 1 May 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/519dde234.html [accessed 27 September 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned for the safety of the Moroccan academic and human rights activist Ahmed Assid following calls for his murder for "defaming the prophet Mohamed". ARTICLE 19 condemns a hate campaign that is being waged against the philosopher for comments he made about religious texts in the national education curriculum.

Some preachers have used Friday sermons in mosques to target Assid for "being an apostate and defaming the prophet Mohamed." Further calls for murder have been spread by social media users. The reaction was sparked by views Assid expressed in a seminar uploaded to the online video sharing website YouTube, in which he said that educational text books were teaching a violent version of Islam depicting the Prophet Mohamed as a "terrorist" - and were therefore contradicting the message of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance.

"Assid's opinion on the content and place of religion in the education curriculum is a legitimate expression protected by international human rights law. It could be the object of discussions and differences of opinion. Indeed, this will be the demonstration of a healthy society debating peacefully matters of clear public interest. Instead, some non-state actors, with the seemingly tacit authorisation of the authorities, have called for his murder. These expressions are not protected by international standards. They also have a chilling effect on free speech and can only result in self-censorship." Says Dr. Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

Under international law, states have an obligation to provide protective measures to those who are at risk of reprisals for speaking out. This obligation applies in all situations where there is a risk of violence occurring and in specific situations where the authorities know or should have known of the existence of a real and immediate risk of such violence, as in this case.

ARTICLE 19 fears for Assid's life and urges the Moroccan government to stand by its international obligations, and to:

Provide appropriate protection to Ahmed Assid

Initiate an independent, speedy and effective investigation into the threats made against his life

Bring those responsible for these threats to justice

ARTICLE 19 believes that threats of violence against those expressing legitimate and peaceful speeches have a chilling effect on free expression, and result in self-censorship with people afraid to speak out or engage in debates on issues of public importance. We call on the Moroccan government to abide by its international responsibility to respect and protect human rights, including by undertaking preventive measures in all situations where non-state actors attempt to commit crimes against freedom of expression.

Copyright notice: Copyright ARTICLE 19

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