A lot is happening in North Africa.
Most recently, Morocco organized a general election with legislative, parliamentary, and deputes being decided through ballot box. In the aftermath, the country’s islamist party suffered a huge defeat and was expelled from the government.
Meanwhile, Algeria unilaterally cut off relations with Morocco. Then, the former Algerian president Bouteflika died after having been in power for twenty years and expelled by popular dissent two years ago.
Because there wasn’t a huge British colony in the Maghreb (i.e., the area from Mauritania to Libya), there hasn’t been a huge interest by the English-speaking community in what is happening in the region. Historically, this region has been among the most influential in affecting the European-Muslim dynamic. Even today, North Africans are the biggest immigrant community in Europe (in France they represent 30% of the population of migrant).
For these reasons, what’s happening in the Maghreb region has been and will have an important impact on Islam in the West.
Morocco is officially the political remnant of that civilization. Indeed, all of the other countries in the Maghreb region are republics built after colonization. The Alawi dynasty that is currently ruling in Morocco is the second oldest dynasty in the world and the only ruling power from before colonization still exercising power in North Africa. This made the evolution of Morocco’s politics interesting to follow.
The Spiritual Poverty of Democracy
In these days of political conflict between Morocco and Algeria (“political” because most citizens won’t adhere to and take part in it), the comparison between both countries is particularly insightful.
In appearance, Algeria is a defender of democracy and freedom. This can be seen in their diplomatic relations, their slogans, and their constitution. Though, in practice, it is not a particularly democratic or liberal country (mainly because of the population’s Islamic values and corruption).
In contrast, Morocco started as an absolutist dynasty with Sultan Ismail and remained absolutist even after the constitution was ratified in the reign of Hassan II, even though it was supposed to give more power to the Moroccan people. Nowhere in its slogans and political system does Morocco endorse democracy, which theoretically is a good thing. We are Muslims, after all, and democracy is a broken system that puts the whims of people above the Rule of Allah.
But sadly, in practice, Morocco is becoming more and more democratic and liberal.
“Morocco’s moderate Islamist party suffered major losses in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a stinging setback in one of the last countries where Islamists had risen to power after the Arab Spring protests.
Moroccans cast ballots in legislative, municipal and regional races, the first such votes in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite turnout figures showing nearly half of Moroccans didn’t cast a ballot, the results were clear: The Justice and Development Party, the moderate Islamists known as the PJD, who have held power since 2011, faced steep losses up and down the ballot — enough to lose control of Parliament.”
It seems that many people in the Muslim world have adopted a purely materialistic view of politics and tend to forget the essential metaphysical aspect of it. However, Allah says in the Quran:
“For him [i.e., each one] are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.” (Quran 13:11)
Democracy has this perverted effect on people, making them think that the political problems of the country reside only in the way power is applied or in the way the nation is represented. But in reality, the issue is with people themselves and their relationship with Allah.
This election is the perfect example of that.
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Analysts say that Moroccans do not trust the Islamist party as a result of their mismanagement of the country and their corruption. But many inhabitants of Morocco (and indeed throughout the Muslim world) can bear witness that corruption is not rare and is practiced by many in Morocco who have nothing to do with the Islamist party.
In one telling incident, a Muslim friend traveled from Marrakech to Oujda (an 8-hour trip) and the driver offered bribes to all the policemen that he encountered on the road in order to bypass tedious checks. None of them refused these bribes. During border checks, as well, it is known and expected that one must bribe the officers. This is everyday corruption that virtually all citizens experience.
So how do we expect that these governments will act differently when their representatives, the police force, widely practices and accepts corruption?
I firmly believe that the solution to our problems is mostly not in government policy or elections. If there is to be change, it must come from within people, including within the hearts of the ruling powers. And this can only be accomplished through effective dawah, calling people to Allah and His Sharia.