By Bassam Michael Madany
June 30, 2016
With all the turmoil that is constantly erupting in the Arab world, it was refreshing to see a different news story which appeared recently in the online Arabic daily Elaph:
Dateline 14 June, 2016, Rabat, Morocco: “Moroccan Christians Declare Publically their Faith.”
My translation of this happy report follows, after which I will make some brief comments about this positive moment in time.
“Moroccan Christians are speaking publicly for the first time about their religious beliefs, having done so on Facebook and on the Internet. A TV channel in Rabat telecasts a special program titled, “Moroccan & Christian.” It consists of brief testimonies by young Moroccan men and women who have converted to Christianity. They testify about their new-found faith, and respond to some false accusations levelled against Christianity. This television program presents Moroccans speaking in colloquial Arabic and saying, “My name is ‘Atiqa, my name is Youssef, my name is Zubeir, my name is Iman, my name is Zainab;” then each one boldly ads, “Ana Massihi[i] wa Maghrebi” (I’m a Christian and a Moroccan.)
“A young Moroccan man “Brother Rachid” then appears on the screen following these “confessions.” He had embraced the Christian faith for some time, and is well-known as a broadcaster on a satellite TV station, “Al-Hayat” (Life.) He hosts a weekly show, “Sou’al Jaree’” (A Daring Question), where he discusses current and historical Islamic themes in the light of his Christian faith.
“According to the Moroccan Criminal Justice Law, anyone who uses ways and means of enticing Muslims to question their faith, or embrace another religion by promising them free education or medical assistance, faces a prison sentence from six months to three years. In 2015, Mustapha al-Ramid, minister of Justice claimed that Moroccan law does not punish anyone who changes his religion; adding that only those who use enticements for converting Moroccans, would be liable to punishment. He added that Moroccan criminal law does not punish those who embrace Christianity or Ilhad (Atheism). To support his claim, he referred to the Qur’anic Surah 18 al-Kahf (the Cave) Ayah 29من شاء فليؤمن ومن شاء فليكفر “And say, ‘The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.’”
This is not the first time that Elaph has reported on the spread of the Christian faith in Morocco and neighboring Algeria. I wrote on this phenomenon a few years ago.[ii] And it is truly heartwarming to notice the progress that has taken place in Morocco, such that converts now feel they can openly declare their allegiance to Jesus Christ. In fact, the subject received special mention in the February, 2016, issue of the New English Review[iii]
To the best of my knowledge, such news seldom receives attention in the Western print and online media. The focus is usually on the latest terrorist attacks on Islamic and Western targets. It is thanks to Elaph that a story such as this is covered. It raises awareness of the Moroccan converts and their bold witness and public confession of their new-found faith.!
The reference to Brother Rachid’s telecasts on Al-Hayat Satellite TV station caught my attention. I was able to watch several of his weekly programs which are archived on YouTube.
The usual format begins with words of welcome to the viewers, and then he announces the topic of the day under the general and thought-provoking rubric of “Sou’al Jaree’” (A Daring Question). Rachid’s telecasts are done in semi-Classical or journalistic Arabic; a few are in English. Viewers may email questions and comments, or contact the show through telephone calls. To give you an idea of the format and contents of Brother Rachid’s work, here are samples.
Brother Rachid addresses President Obama in English, about the true nature of ISIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iZ6u-vqUxc
In this show, Brother Rachid interviews Dr. Daniel Pipes on the general theme of "Islam in the West" on 25 March, 2015. This show is in Arabic and in English.
To learn about Brother Rachid’s conversion, you can listen to an interview that IŞIK ABLA (a Turkish Muslim convert to Christianity) conducted with him on 6 March, 2014
Watching Rachid’s weekly shows is informative if only because one becomes aware of new thinking among many in the Muslim world. The Internet has been an effective means to get this moderating and more tolerating mindset into wider view. Old barriers to the exchange of ideas and worldviews have broken down. It’s possible nowadays to engage in open discussions with Muslims about their faith, its history, and the mounting problems many Muslims have in coping with modernity. What’s new is that many of the intellectuals who are grappling with these challenges are Muslims, or Ex-Muslims. They speak from within the Islamic culture after becoming fully acquainted with Western civilization. They aren’t liable to be regarded as prejudiced imperialistic Orientalists like many in the past were. Al-Hayat TV station is giving these “native critics” the opportunity to publish their much-needed analyses to cure Islam from its over-fascination with its history, and with the Utopian dream of resurrecting the institution of the Caliphate!
I don’t expect that great changes are about to take place in the vast Islamic world. However, we may not discount the impact of the new media on the minds of the young generation who are no longer living within the old confines of Daru’l Islam. The Elaph article precipitated a good deal of commenting from the readers. While most were very critical of the boldness of the young Moroccan Christians and flung out charges of apostasy, yet some were sympathetic. Listening to the live comments on Brother Rachid’s program, I was impressed by the number of positive remarks, as well as by the vast audience that watches this weekly program. In a certain sense, we’re witnessing today an acceleration in the march of history, an acceleration due to technological advances that abolishes borders and barriers! Perhaps we may entertain a better hope for the future!
The URL for the Arabic text of the Elaph report follows
[i] Massihi is the Arabic equivalent of “Christian;” it’s the term used by Arabic-speaking Christians, and is derived from the Arabic translation of the Bible. However, the Qur’an refers to Christians by the pejorative term of Nasarah (derived from Nazareth). Muslims who convert to Christianity use “Massihi” to show their solidarity with Eastern Christians!