The families of seven members of the Islamist movement Al Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality) announced on September 1 that they had filed a lawsuit against the police for “torturing” them while in custody. The Adlist activists, who were recently arrested in Fez, are suspected of having kidnapped and tortured a lawyer. But they claim they are innocent, arguing that there is a plot to conspire against them. According to them, their confession was obtained under torture. This is not the first time that the influential movement’s activists have appeared before the courts. The authorities accuse them of violence and intolerance, a charge they flatly deny. Victims or perpetrators?
Is Al Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality) involved in political activism or a benevolent society? Do they represent a pacific ideology or a terrorist threat? The Moroccan regime is at its wits end as to how to handle this cumbersome Islamist movement.
Despite having been founded in 1973, the organization lacks legal recognition, although its activities are still tolerated. But members of the influential organization say they are regularly subjected to threats, intimidation, and smear campaigns. The media tag them as a group capable of violently overthrowing Morocco’s monarchy in order to establish an Islamic republic.
In the most recent affair involving the group, families of seven of its members who were arrested in Fez announced at a news conference on September 1 in Rabat that they had filed a complaint against the police for “torture” during their detention.
In a statement issued on 1 July, the seven detainees alleged that they had suffered “torture and abuse” at the premises of the National Brigade to combat crime in Casablanca, before signing a confession under duress.
Details of their abuse include: “stripping naked, suspension, waterboarding, foot whipping, electric shocks to sensitive organs, harassment and threats of rape, beatings that have left some of us with problems with our sight and hearing …”
The seven Islamists were arrested June 28, 2010 after a lawyer from Fez, Mohamed El Ghazi, filed a complaint against them for “kidnapping and violence.”
According to part of the Moroccan media, the group assaulted the lawyer, a former leading member of the organization, because they suspected him of having passed on secret information about their activities to national security services.
But members of Al Adl wal Ihsan argue that they are victims of a conspiracy. “The case is trumped up to undermine and denigrate us and the Jamaa. All this makes us very afraid to face a trial before a most unjust justice system that is far from being independent,” pleaded the seven defendants whose trial date is yet to be set.
“I saw the Prophet”
Al Adl wal Ihsan is one of the most influential Islamist organizations in the Moroccan kingdom. It advocates a return to fundamentalist Islam, based on the strict application of Sharia law, although it insists that it opposes violence.
Its founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, 82, is a charismatic figure and a real guru.
The Sheikh often holds meetings with his disciples to tell them about his roûyia, or what are supposedly dreams, in which he talks to the Prophet Mohammed.
He has written many books in which his vision of Islam is outlined. And Islamiser la modernité (Islamise modernity), one of his writings has become the sect’s book of reference.
But it was in 1974, when he pens over one hundred pages of advice to King Hassan II, titled Islam or the Flood/the Deluge, that the floodgates of official intimidation swing open.
His audacity leads him to psychiatric detention, before being thrown into prison and later under house arrest until the end of the monarch’s reign.
And when Mohammed VI is installed on the throne after his father death, Yassin attacks again. He sends the new king an impassioned memorandum, entitled To Whom it May Concern.
For the Sheikh and his movement its a no-holds-barred. They resume their political activities, multiplying the unauthorized rallies.
The number of members in Al Adl wal Ihsan is a secret that the group is bent on keeping in wraps. However, following a police raid in May 2006 on its premises, it was revealed that the movement had about 100,000 active members with perhaps 25,000 sympathizers (who are not full members), reports the weekly Tel Quel.
Nonetheless, the very proselytizing organization has a fairly extensive network in Europe, the Middle East and the United States where it is officially recognized.
“In Europe, one only has to visit suburbia mosques in Paris, Brussels or London to receive letters of encouragement, signed by Yassin and distributed by Adlists who are not necessarily bearded,” writes TelQuel which conducted several surveys on the movement.
Lakhdar Ferrat, an Algerian journalist based in Brussels, also reviewed the group’s activities in an investigative book entitled Adl Wal Ihssane, civil disobedience to terror (Amazigh editions Brussels, 2006).
According to him, there is no doubt: “Al Adl Wal Ihsan’s speech is preparing its activists for jihad,” he analysis in an interview published in Maroc Hebdo.
Meanwhile, many observers have expressed concerns about the succession of the aging Sheikh Yassin.
“I fear that the Al Adl Wal Ihsan movement erupts into uncontrollable autonomous groups after the death of Sheikh Yassin. It is the great danger. Because, there will surely be splinter groups who will decide to take up arms … ” worries Lakhdar Ferrat.
After Yassin, the Flood/the Deluge?