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Moroccan Madness

Here’s a headline that should comfort no one, except religious zealots: “Moderate Islamist Party Appears to Have Prevailed in Elections in Morocco” (New York Times).

In fact, that Moroccan Islamist Party (a.k.a. the Islamic Justice and Development Party, a.k.a. PJD) did prevail, winning 107 of 395 parliamentary seats, and Abdelilah Benkirane, the party leader, is now set to become that country’s prime minister.

The new leader was, on declaring victory, full of good cheer and merry, comforting predictions: “We are not trying to set up a religious regime or a Caliphate, as some suggest,” Benkirane promised French reporters. “This is absurd. We are in the year 2011.”

But are the new victors really so up to date? Such impassioned supporters of 2011 liberalism? The PJD has for a long time claimed to be inspired by Turkey’s version of the same party—and Turkey’s version, created a decade ago, has not heartened those who embrace the age-old Turkish passion for secularism (a Muslim anomaly that Prime Minister Recep Erdogan refers to, significantly, as “authoritarian secularism.”)

Among their most publicized efforts: the Turkish Islamists have tried to lift the ban on headscarves at universities and toughened the criteria for cafes that wish to sell alcohol.

Even more chilling, one of the largest planks in the Moroccan platform of this transnational Islamist party is “greater Arab and Muslim unity.” Make of that what you will, but in Turkey it translates as “screw Israel.”

Last month the voters of Tunisia—where female literacy has for a long time been more than 65 percent and women have for years been allowed to divorce their husbands and retain custody of their children (see here)—elected Ennahda, another so-called moderate Islamic party. And practically the first thing the women of Tunisia were promised was that many of these reforms might well come to an end. A law that protects single Tunisian mothers, for example, is—a female member of Ennahda declared—a sign of promiscuity, and “encourages other women to do the same thing.”

In Egypt, where no one pretends the Islamists are moderate or peaceable (least of all the much abused Coptic population of 10 million, which in November just endured yet another round of attacks at the hands of Islamic radicals), elections are ongoing. And guess who’s going to win over there? With more than 6,000 candidates and dozens of parties, everyone’s money is on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Time was in Morocco that its fairly enlightened king, who these days is Mohammed VI, appointed that nation’s prime minister. This form of selection was considered undemocratic. Authoritarian. Old-fashioned. Retro. Dictatorial.

Just wait and see what’s going to happen now.

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