Morocco: Outrage over Islamist couple sex scandal

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A sex scandal involving two leading Islamist
political leaders has stirred an uproar in Morocco

as angry social media users took to the internet to
criticise the incident.
Moulay Omar Benhammad, 63, and Fatima Nejjar,
62, both vice presidents of the Reform and Unity
Movement (MUR), the religious wing of the ruling
Justice and Development Party (PJD), were briefly
detained on Saturday morning after they were
found in a “sexual position” on a beach in the port
city of Mohammedia, some 60 kilometres from the
capital Rabat.
The couple, set to appear in court on September 1,
was granted a bail after Benhammad’s wife
refrained from filing a legal proceeding against him
for adultery.
Nejjar, a 62-year-old widow and mother of six,
faces a charge of complicity to adultery, while
Benhammad, a married 63-year-old father of
seven, faces charges of “attempted corruption” of
the policemen who detained the two.
Under Moroccan law, extra-marital sex is
punishable by a jail term of between one and 12
months.
The couple was expelled from the party on
Monday.
MUR released a statement condemning the
incident and accusing the two of committing a
“extremely serious fault” that ammounted to “a
violation of the principles of the movement, its
orientation and its values”.
The incident went vital on social media with users
taking to the internet to criticise what they believe
to be the religious leaders’ hypocrisy in their
teachings regarding sexual freedoms and relations

Videos of Najjar were quickly shared in which she
advocates the use of the Islamic veil and urges
students to stay away from “temptation and vice”.
‘Sex debate’
The incident has triggered an old debate
surrounding sexual freedoms in Morocco.
Moroccon activists have long called for the
cancelation of Article 490 of the Penal Code, a law
which punishes every man and woman caught
having sex outside of marriage, even if the two are
conesnting adults.
According to activists, adults should have the
freedom to engage in sexual relations as long as
there is mutual consent.
In 2014, global advocay group Amnesty
International released a campaign called My Body
My Rights that fell in line with activists’ calls for
greater freedoms.
Amnesty International Morocco director Mohamed
Sektaoui said at the time that the organization was
calling on the government to “include sexual
freedom in its criminal code reforms, and
acknowledge it as part of human rights.”
“Sexual relations outside marriage must not be
considered a crime punishable by law,” he added.
The sex scandal, among a list of other assorted
accusations against the ruling PJD, comes just
weeks before Morocco’s parliamentary elections in
October.
While the party itself is keeping a low profile, its
backers accuse opponents in parliament and the
media of conjuring a slur campaign to damage
PJD credibility ahead of the October general
election.
“It is an old practice to defame and discredit the
other (party) in the fight for power,” historian Maati
Monbij told AFP.
The PJD remains popular in the conservative
country, despite limited success in tackling
corruption, and is credited with lowering the
budget deficit.

Source: Al Jazeera News and agencies

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