The Moorish Wanderer

Funny Zemzami, The Necrophile Scholar

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco, Read & Heard, Tiny bit of Politics by Zouhair ABH on May 10, 2011

Yes, we do have a freak show going on these days. But none of our Monstres Sacrés can match the latest Fatwa published by the (respected) Islamic Scholar and member of the religious establishment, Abdelbari Zemzami. He basically allows sexual intercourse with a corpse. Yes. Necrophilia is now Halal in Morocco by the grace of Alem Zemzami.

I should perhaps be more specific in Zemzami’s Fatwa: he allows the widowed husband to have sexual intercourse with the corpse of his deceased wife. The Fatwa does not say whether it reciprocates for a woman (although I suspect even with rigor mortis, it will not do) nor does it specify how many hours after the wife’s death a man can still, you know… perform their marital duties. If it was not for the scholar’s level of seniority, I would dismiss this fatwa as yet another deranged, lonely individual who did not get some for a while. But this is Zemzami. And it is a Fatwa from an official of the Habousministry. If indeed such Fatwa is genuine.

Abdelbari Zemzami, the Man who brings sunshine to the Nihilists' dreary lives. (Picture ALM)

But the issue goes beyond our funny Zemzami – please follow the hashtags #FunnyZemzami and #ZemzamiFatwa, you will get a kicking out of the twittoma’s imagination and acerbic witticism- and strikes at the very heart of individual freedom and the rule of positive law; Zemzami is empowered to produce Islamic rulings that can easily be considered an obligation on the Muslim community in Morocco; As a Alem, an Islamic Scholar, his Fatwas are norms. He can claim to actually dictate what we, as members of the Ummah, should do or not do. We are thus submitted to the double fetter of God’s law, and Man’s law.  We individual citizens have no grip on such legislation, an infringement on our democratic rights, and perhaps the most straightforward argument in favour of the criticism that Morocco is no democracy.

Zemzami justifies his ruling by means of analogy: Since a good Muslim couple will meet again in Heaven, and since death does not alter the marital contract (in his opinion) it is not a hindrance to the husband’s desire to have sexual intercourse with the corpse of his (freshly) deceased wife. A deranged mind and flawed logical thinking seem not to be part of the position of Senior Alem’s requirements. I am no Islamic Scholar (thank God) but I remember from my (compulsory and utterly boring) High School Islamic courses that there is a minimum amount of logical thinking when the Imam (or Alem) makes their Ijtihad, or investigations. And quite frankly, I really don’t see how he managed to find a ruling for the deceased; The Islamic literature is very extensive on the living (as it normally should be) but Zemzami’s ruling tops them all. He seemed to overlook the procreating objective of marital mating (this is why concepts such as “نكاح المتعة” are forbidden)

Indeed, Zemzami’s ruling is funny. It is so, because if one wants to think of it otherwise, the first thing to spring to mind is something like: “what goes on the man’s life to take such a keen interest in such an obscure issue to devote time and resources and come up with a an even stranger ruling”? I mean, perhaps the Habous officials do bore themselves to death in their offices, but still, they are civil servants and receive their salaries (comfortable salaries in Zemzami’s case) on the taxpayer’s dime. It is only just to question the man’s competence (never mind sanity) and legitimacy to dream up rulings regulating our lives.

Abdelbari Zemzami, again, is no ordinary scholar: he is formally a الخبير في فقه النوازل which means an Expert in Exceptional Matters, issues that have not been delineated in the Quran, the Hadith, or anywhere in Sharia law. Zemzami actually did his job: such a bizarre occurrence never happened before, and was never discussed in past scholarly work or in the original Islamic laws, so it is up to him, the expert, to come up with something. Yes, Zemzami is the chief scholar at the vanguard of new Islamic rulings designed to make life more harmonious within the Islamic community. Frightening.

The whole idea of a Ulema corps is at odds with democracy. First because it is another infringement on individual rights; Indeed, we are living in a society, and because of it, individuals need to sacrifice some of their rights for the sake of the collective freedom. The democratic setting minimizes these fetters to the necessary rules required for a peaceful  coexistence. This means that no restrictions should be put on intimate issues -which religions, especially Islam, want to regulate in accordance to their teachings, so as to achieve their Holy City utopia. In view of these elements, positive law is sufficient an infringement on individual freedom to indulge in adding yet another restriction. And even though there is no direct link between the Penal sanction of non-marital sexual relationships and Zemzami’s fatwa, I suspect frustrations due to the repressive sexual policy, as it were, do lead to such Vaudevillian situations; Opening up to sexual tolerance and essential the breaking of ‘wedlock monopoly‘ could help stem dangerous behaviour (rather than encourage them, as the conservative theory goes)

Zemzami’s ruling is a blessing in disguise: it furthers the cause of secularists; It is the proof that dogmatic and conservative policies are a failure, and frustrations and social deviances arising from such fettering rules are a blatant rebuttal to those who believe all Moroccans will be moral knights and dames. Subsequently, instead of treating everyone as a devout Muslim (and punishing anyone who does not care about it) it is easier, and nicer, to scrap these pieces of legislation. It also have the courage to do away with hypocrisy (the penal code punishes non-observant of Ramadan but not those who do not go to the Mosque, even though prayers have seniority as an Islamic pillar)

Oh, and one last thing. Zemzami really should be put in some asylum. Or allowed to set up a One Man Show; that way he will do no harm to the saner people. And it seems he stands by his ruling: necrophilia is Halal. Looking forward to the next ruling on f**king goats.

Wrap it up, Time is of The essence

It has been about three months since a group of young people, eager to make their voices heard loud and clear, staged the first of the three demonstrations calling for constitutional reforms and policies to rout out corruption and nepotism. The momentum built steadily, the youth managed some spectacular stunts, but now is the time to cool off and set off a precise agenda.

Paradoxically, “Feb20” ‘s main strength turns out to be its deadliest weakness, and if it does not try and do something about it, perhaps the cause of its demise. Indeed, the movement is heterogeneous: old-guard left-wingers and human rights activists coexist more or less peacefully with Salafists and Al-Adl religious conservative. This strange alliance of social progressists and reactionaries appeals to a broad spectrum of the public opinion, but that unity comes at the price of ambiguity. Both wings -and the motley of nuances in between- wholeheartedly agree on the need for establishing democracy, but still fail to define a common manifesto, as it were.

Consider the main 20Feb. grievances, those that gathered masses of demonstrators on February 20th, March 20th and April 23th:

” دستور ديمقراطي يمثل الإرادة الحقيقية للشعب.

– حل الحكومة والبرلمان وتشكيل حكومة انتقالية مؤقتة تخضع لإرادة الشعب.

– قضاء مستقل ونزيه

– محاكمة المتورطين في قضايا الفساد واستغلال النفوذ ونهب خيرات الوطن.

– الاعتراف باللغة الأمازيغية كلغة رسمية إلى جانب العربية والاهتمام بخصوصيات الهوية المغربية لغة ثقافة وتاريخا

– إطلاق كافة المعتقلين السياسيين ومعتقلي الرأي ومحاكمة المسؤولين.”

Among these items, the manifesto does manage to find common ground: the liberation of political detainees (a clear rebuttal of Morocco’s boasting about its human rights record), an autonomous judiciary and court action against corrupt officials appeal to every Moroccan citizen, whatever their political allegiances. There is even a great deal of potential consensus on parliament and government dissolution and the appointment of a transitory body to oversee the constitutional reform aimed at. But the niceties stop there. There is an explosive disagreement potential on what everyone of the Feb20 supporting organization means by “a democratic constitution representative of the people’s will”; It ranges from Soviet democracy to an Islamist Caliphate based on the Islamic notion of Shoura (شورة) democracy, or indeed a Libertarian, crypto-anarchist democracy, whatever wing each member of the movement belongs to. This diversity insures a truly democratic representation within the movement, but unfortunately has a crippling effect on its potential as a platform opposition to the regime.

Consider, for instance, their refusal to answer the official invitation from the Menouni commission to contribute to the official constitutional debate was, I am afraid to say, the first chip in “Fortress February 20th”. There are many Human Rights activists within the organization, and it can count on the support of very respectable law scholars party members of supporting political parties and societies, but it seems the refusal was more out of sheer realism: how can it be possible to prepare the movement own manifesto on constitutional reform? My point does not consider the refusal on itself (a decision, in my opinion, in full accordance with the principle of compromising with the regime until it gives in on the real issues). No, I fear the regime can no take the high grounds, and further stresses the impossible task, for the movement, to come up with a precise agenda. On the other hand, this curse might as well be a blessing in disguise: there have been scores of unhealthy speculation about some sort of Faustian alliance between the extreme-left-wing (Annahj types) and the Salafist reactionaries (Al Adl types). If indeed such alliance was sealed, then there would be a lot more centralization and discipline within the ranks. If indeed professional militants were the spearhead of Feb20 movement, things would be a great deal more confrontational. At least that should reassure conspiracy-theorist freaks: the movement is not a vassal to the Marxists and Islamists.

Let me explain: consider the left-wing, secularist activists in the Feb20 platform. Obviously, they would consider a secularized state with no religion-based legislation or legitimacy as the most straightforward way to achieve democracy. On the other hand, Salafists have this literature calling for the regeneration of Islamic scholarly heritage (hence their name) Although they do not necessarily always profess reactionary positions, they share the common feature of considering Islam and Sharia as the sole basis for social legislation.

The word ‘reactionary’ should be understood with no negative connotation (although I tend to use that myself) but as an open hostility to liberalism and progress, as well as the stated objective to roll back what is considered harmful or foreign and go back to some unspecified past setting. Salafism, because of its longing to the true ismalic life the ascendants (السلف الصالح) led in strict observance of Islamic teachings (Sharia and Koran), can rightfully be considered to be a reactionary.

So here’s a first roadblock: both wings agree on democracy as the only viable political organization to replace the existing crony autocracy, but would ultimately fail to define the very basic mechanisms of such regime: indeed, the head of government (and we assume here all Feb20 tendencies agree on the institution of Prime Minister, or at least some sort of Premiership) has to be accountable to the people. But then again, what are the Premier’s responsibilities? Would they allow individual freedom to flourish, or are they required as proxy to Amir Al Mouminine, by virtue of some modern Beya (بيعة) contract, to uphold the teachings and rules of Islamic Sharia?

Are these too high-brow kind of matters to discuss with our average Ahmed? Well, let us consider these: the liberal wing wouldn’t mind the present modern monetary system, with interest rates, commercial papers, complex financial transactions that make the economy rolling. Sure some macroeconomic policies would be the flavour of many left-wingers, but what about the Islamist bunch? Wouldn’t they prefer a more Islamic economic structure? Wouldn’t they oppose the use of interest as Ribaa? Wouldn’t they settle for anything less than the full gearing of economy into Islamic mode?

That’s the trouble with re-writing the constitution: it is not just a set of rules every citizen has to respect. It is above all the legislative paradigm all laws, court rulings and administrative regulation move within. And what is more of a trouble is that Islamist paradigm (the one favoured by the politcal wing of Al Adl anyway) contradicts too much that of left-wingers’. Liberals and conservatives can walk the line, but not all the way down, not if they want to be true to their principles.

Now, it can go either way: the Royal deadline for CCRC to publish its constitutional draft is approaching fast (mid-June, according to the King’s speech). Whatever criticism one might have on its appointment procedure or the quality of its panel members, it will have the undeniable moral advantage of claiming that it has asked ‘civil society’ and adjusted its draft accordingly. It is also the official spokesperson for the regime’s idea of possible constitutional draft, a regime which is not entirely gainsaid by the dissidence, so there is very little chance an outright majority would reject the commission’s findings. The movement could try and mobilize voters to vote against the draft during the referendum, thus forcing the regime into reconsidering the process, and perhaps come to their senses and convene a nation-wide consultation (perhaps with a direct Royal meeting with representatives of all sorts) thus insuring a genuine consensus on the constitution. The movement’s diversity would, if I may, be transmitted to other political forces and the civil society, so as the achieved consensus draft would be indeed representative of all opinions. This dream scenario has a chance of sucess if the movement manages to muster enough support to repel the referendum and put pressure to call on a different consultation afterwards.

The second scenario considers Feb20 movement in its most patent feature, i.e. as a pure tribune organization. It opposes the status quo, but because of the delicate balance it has managed to achieve within its membership, it cannot go any further than shout slogans that lack content or even appeal to the silent majority. On possibility is that the movement might call for a boycott (a decision I can respect and understand) but would fail to present an alternative other than taking on to the streets.

Voices of moderation and compromise should, in such cases, prevail. But let us not forget that one of the reasons with these young people rose and shouted their exasperation is precisely because of the obsessive use of compromise and consensus in mainstream Moroccan politics. In times like these, and in view of the grand principles the movement calls for, nuances and compromise, for all the undeniable benefits it might bring to the movement’s credibility, are very far from being considered as a starting point for a comprehensive counter-proposal on the constitution.

But perhaps I am mistaken. I do hope I am, for it would be a shame the spark (Iskra) would not start the bush fire our politics desperately need.