By HASSAN ALAOUI – 14 hours ago
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The Moroccan government has banned an issue of the French magazine L’Express International, claiming it insults Islam in articles exploring the relationship between that religion and Christianity.
Information Minister Khalid Naciri said Sunday that he had no choice but to ban the current issue because of the offensive nature of the articles it contained. The minister said the kingdom’s press code allows the government to shut down or ban any publication deemed to offend Islam or the king.
The cover of this week’s L’Express is titled “The Jesus-Muhammad Shock” — also the title of a book by Christian Makarian, one of the magazine’s chief editors.
The weekly said the series of articles was inspired by a meeting planned this week in Rome between Christian and Muslim scholars and is intended to “help the dialogue between Islam and Christianity.”
Naciri did not specify exactly what was considered offensive, but told The Associated Press that “our country should not be used by anyone to spread articles that could be prejudicial to our religion or undermine public order,”
A statement on L’Express’ Internet site said the magazine did not understand Morocco’s reaction, particularly because pains had been taken to adhere to Islamic norms, notably by covering the face of Muhammad with a white veil in side-by-side cover portraits of Jesus and Islam’s prophet, in line with Islamic law. The French edition leaves the face uncovered.
The articles provide broad outlines of the two monotheistic religions. One article comparing Jesus and Muhammad quotes verses from the Quran that it says show that the Muslim holy book “justifies violence toward those who refuse to obey Muslim law.” It says that Muhammad the pacifist and Muhammad the warrior are united in one figure.
Morocco, a tourism haven and strong European and U.S. ally, has seen a rising tide of political Islam.
Makarian said on the Web site that L’Express is the only French magazine to issue a monthly supplement centered on Morocco, a former French colony.
“We were banned despite this particular attention that shows our respect for the Moroccan public and the Muslim faith,” he said. “I don’t understand.”
The Information Ministry for Algeria, Morocco’s neighbor, said it was not aware of the issue, while Tunisian officials did not return calls Sunday for comment.
Many members of the liberal elite in North Africa follow the French media because they have retained close cultural ties to France, the former colonial power in the region.
Morocco has shown sensitivity to how Islam is treated in the past. In 2006, Islamist parties and associations staged huge protests throughout Morocco after a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons caused protests across the Muslim world.
Associated Press Writer Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.