Observers predict that the Justice and Development Party (Morocco) will be the major winner in the next elections and maybe forming the next cabinet.
Ikhwanweb interviewed Dr. Sa’d Al-Din Al-O’thmani the secretary general of the party in Morocco.
History and the origins
The party emerged as a result of the resistance against the French occupier, when the Moroccans took up arms and sacrificed every precious thing against occupation. One of the most prominent figures in the history of Morocco was Dr. Abdul Kareem Al-Khatib who is the founder of the party along with other group of his fellows. He was responsible for the first group which ended its job by establishing an army for liberation and preparing it. After independence, Dr. ala-khatib had a momentous role in fighting despotism and standing against the policies of the "single party" who was a trend in policy at that time.
There were calls for more freedom for the multi-party system, then a decree for general freedom was issued which had great influence in Morocco after independence.
In 1959, Dr. Al-Khatib established with several of his fellows Popular Movement Party. He set three basics for this party: Islam, the unity of north Africa and a constitutional monarchy.
The party participated in 1963 in the first legislative elections in Morocco.
He was elected as the first president for the Chamber of Deputies. In June 1965, King Hassan II declared a state of emergency and dissolved the parliament.
Dr. Al-Khatib opposed this action and considered it as a slap on the face of general freedoms which were set in the country. This forced Dr. Al-Khatib to establish a party called "The Popular Constitutional Democratic Movement" which was known later as The Justice and Development Party.
In 1972, there was a foiled coup de tat, and then Dr. Al-Khatib sent for King Hassan II a referendum that list the conditions for saving the country:
-Applying Qur’an and Sunnah in all domains of life
-Cancellation of the exceptional case and carry out impartial elections
-A trustworthy cabinet that is formed from the parliamentary majority
-Ameliorating the status of judiciary with full reformations.
As a result, there were many cases of forgery in elections against the party in order to exempt it. At the same time, there was another growing Islamic movement called the "The group of Monotheism and Reformation" which was denied a politcal party. Dr. Abdul Kareem al –Khatib who welcomed them in his party. In 1996 there was an exceptional conference where some of the new Islamic movement joined the party.
This helped in forming new Islamic leadership and supporting its orientation which resulted in very good results in the legislative elections in 1997.
To express the sense of unity and adaptation with new developments, the party decided to change its name in 1996 to the Justice and Development Party.
What are the intellectual bases for the party?
The party has Islamic base in all its choices and political judgment. It considers this as inevitable since the origins of Moroccans are Islamic. The Party’s perception about Islam is that it must be based on Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah in accordance to three aspects:
moderate stance by shunning all forms of extremism and exaggeration in thinking and practice, secondly, renewing and adaptation with contemporary developments in thinking, policy, technology and information besides the intermingling with the other and the exchange of interests.
How do you see the future of the party in the next elections?
It is hard to predict accurately the position of the party on the political map. This matter is related to the conditions of carrying out elections and especially the method of ballots.
However there are prospects that the political status of the party would improve and would be able to influence the political field in better way especially in the process of construction and reformation.
What do you think about the possibility of the shared work between Moroccan Islamic groups especially the group of "Justice et Spiritualite", and what are the common points between you and the different ones?
Frankly speaking, it is hard to work together due to the presence of general different political trend, but this does not prevent co-ordination in the issues that is related to our nation especially Palestine and Iraq, this already happened in the working national group for supporting Iraq and Palestine.
After this important experience in the field of politics, how can you assess the experience of your party and how do you evaluate the status of political work in Morocco?
The Justice and Development Party participated in activating political life and the work in the parliament as many journalists and observers said.
They noticed that the party participated greatly in edifying people especially women and youth about the necessity of the political work and participation in the political activities.
Political and work succeeded in creating many achievements that paved way for increasing the freedom of press and the freedom of expression.
The culture of multiplicity increased as well in political and intellectual fields.
Freedom is the way for renaissance and mobilizing energies. However there are many trends that want to block such changes as they contradict their interests.
The Justice and Development Party has a great role in combating all kinds of corruption and it provides many services and efforts besides its role in enhancing the positive culture and facing the culture of despair and they are basics for positive work.
Although the political field in Morocco is considered relatively advanced than any Arab country, yet it needs efforts for accomplishing it and the challenges before us are many.
Political parties for example still suffer from less credibility and the traditionalism of means, and sometimes they become the resort for those who are rich, that’s why people turn away their faces from political parties.
Why there are heavy censures against the party? When you visited USA lately, how did you find the reputation of the party?
What do Moroccans living in West expect to find from the party? Does America fear from this party?
The spirit of the party and its activity have brought great concerns and forced many people especially its opponents to launch attacks against it with all means.
And from these activities that teased its opponents that great diplomatic activities we did and the ties made with others.
As we have visited successfully many European and American countries in order to meet our clear goals:
Visiting the Moroccan community in these countries, because we have a program of connectedness inside home and outside as well with Moroccans, this is a continuous program. When we visited Spain, France, Belgium, Italy and other countries, we dedicate about 50% of our programs for Moroccans living abroad, we have contacts with them and their bodies.
Calling some leaderships, political bodies, or Research centers or societies in West who care about development and the development of Islamic movements generally.
We are keen to present our views about political reformations in Morocco, about the prospects for it and about the nature of ongoing relationships and how to develop it in future. We shall also focus on the issue of the Moroccan desert and express our views as an active party in Morocco. Moroccans living abroad expect too many things and the evidence is that they show great turn out to the party when it make visits to the countries Moroccans are living there.
Is the party ready to assume the government in 2007, does it have qualified figures to handle the national issue?
It is supposed that every party must be ready for assuming the national issue.
I trust greatly the qualifications of our party; this was clear in many situations when we were able to organize the national issue.
But what is going to be after 2007? This is related to the results of elections and the surrounding political factors.
Although we are participating in the national issues and we can assume the responsibilities of ruling yet, we are ready as well to be in opposition in case all factors were not available for us to rule.
Therefore we will be serving our country in case we are still opponents.
We will show efficient oppositions in combating violations and corruption, and we shall make many reformations in the country.
The role of the Justice and Development Party is not only participation in Parliament or in cabinet yet it has a role in social and political reformation based on the values of Islam.
How do you interpret the escalations from the security part against group "Justice et Spiritualite"?
This escalation was related to some political stances from the group’s part.
We hope that matters would settle later, upon God’s willing.
Is there any kind of co-ordination between you and other political parties? Or you are having your own basics away from others? Is there any of political parties that it is impossible to unite with them due to the vast difference in ideologies?
Since the duty of reformation is a complex task that needs gradualism, also it needs solidarity between reformation powers regardless of their differences.
The requirements of reformation are very great that no political organization can ever claim its ability to assume it.
Justice and Development arty believes in multiplicity and co-operation methodologies, so it believes that differences in opinions and political agendas should be in a frame of good competition that aims contemporary reformation for the sake of home.
We distinguish between the objective political differences that aid in maturing the intellect and the political activities in the country and that kind of partisan and political life that cause dissention among people, so we co-operate in the common points and excuse one another in the differences between us.
According to us, the signs of political maturity and political work are the wide common ground between the components of political arena, besides the importance of limiting the growing disputes that stem from individual desires and interests that would lead to the re-building of a new partisan life on the bases of policy, programs, and objective choices. These points are from the essentials for restoring credibility to political life.
Co-operation in political arena does not indicate mainly alliance, as it is the highest kind of alliance. The munificent sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) showed examples for that, as when the Prophet (PBUH) said "I attended with some of my cousins in Dar Bani Jad’an, if I prayed for them to embrace Islam, my pray would be met" This was a treaty between non- Muslims but were for the sake of common-weal which is retaliating for the oppressed and miserable people.
In such a way we are ready to co-operate with others in order to meet goals and legitimate interests.
According to the Justice and Development party, how do you define the concept of the civil state?
The party’s interpretation to the concept of the civil state is in the same frame of the Islamic jurisprudence definition for this concept, which considers the state as a worldly state, composed of human begins.
The duties of this state is to establish as possible all objective and logical levels in organizing the affairs of society.
The ruler in Islam does not take his legitimacy from metaphysical powers, yet he is a normal ruler takes assumes the responsibilities of ruling through the nation who elected him on free bases.
Therefore, he is responsible for his state in the worldly life and he will be asked about this responsibility in the hereafter.
Although the term civil state is considered a modern term yet its bases are derived from legislative texts and from the practices of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)
What is the stance of the party towards the issue of Polisario Front?
It is the issue of the Moroccan Desert, Polisario Front decided to dissent during the cold war period.
Worthy mentioning that Algeria played a great role in supporting this front politically, diplomatically, financially and military and this cause the dispute to be a long one. Unfortunately, this synchronizes a time where Muslims are in dire need to unite against the conspiracies of partition and dissention.
Historically, the desert belongs to Morocco, and its population is Moroccans.
Many people from this regions established states and ruled Morocco. Until now and after independence there are still ministers and parliamentary figure whose origins go back to this desert.
Moroccans will not allow any one to seize the Western Desert because defending the integrity of lands is a religious duty and a national one as well.
Lately, Morocco acknowledged an autonomous – rule for this region but under the Moroccan dominance.
It was the same stance that our party adopted. We believe that this is a compromise that keeps the unity and at the same time it does not offend our neighbor Algeria especially this issue has forced many international parts to be involved in, now it is propounded among Security Council.
What are the party’s views about the freedom of expression and participation of woman? Do you think that if the party assumed the responsibilities of ruling, will it impose obstacles and banning against the freedom of creativity and expression?
Expanding the freedom of expression, respecting the intellectual differences and expanding the horizons of general freedoms are part and parcel from the party’s policies.
We reject any kind of limitation against them or any assault, all this must be in accordance with law.
Political participation for woman is a legitimate right and is important for developing the society.
Our party urges woman to participate in political activities along with co-operation of men in organizing national affairs.
Therefore, woman is always present in different bodies belonging to the parties.
Women take positions that match their experiences and nature. The party has six representatives who are women and many consultants in several countries.
Some press sources mentioned the presence of several disputes inside the party and the presence of different trends within it, where is the fact?
This is wrong completely, but any member within the part can adopt different opinions this does not reflect the official stance of the party in some cases, this is evidence on freedom within the party.
We believe that opinions ought to be free but decisions are binding.
Some blame you that you exaggerate in moral cases instead of other cases and problems, you also get indulged in these matters as if you are a preaching group not a political party, are you a political part or a preaching group?
Those who make this propaganda are bodies that do not want to find a political work that is practiced in a moral frame; they just need whims for power and materialistic demands to rule on the expenses of common weal and the interests of society.
The Justice and Development Party believe that development is developing the status of man from all aspects whether materialistically, psychologically, socially and spiritually.
It stems from an Islamic reference, and the party prides this.
Moreover, the party’s and its political stances are not obsessed by moral issues and as well it does not neglect such matters.
The program we have displayed to audience and press from two years is based on five equal pillars: Originality-Independence-Democracy-Justice-Development.
Justice and Development Party is not a religious party but based on religious concepts, yet it is a national political party based on citizenship, and national belonging, that opens its doors in front of any Moroccan citizen who believe in the communal project but in accordance with law.
The party prides being set on Islamic basics which are the reference for the society and community.
Therefore, the Justice and Development part is not a religious party where members are identified by religion but as citizens.
You always describe yourselves as an Islamic Democratic party, yet this description brings forth many overlapping problems, as it refers to the experience of another western party that is governed secularly like the Christian Democratic Party while Morocco is an Islamic country according to constitution, this makes you appear in an image where you surrender to secularization despite you are in an Islamic country?
We should not refer to previously made concepts according to a certain experience and ascribe them to the relationship between preaching and policy.
At the beginning, the French laic ensued from the concept of fighting church; this kind of laic increased and is interfering now in the internal affairs of Muslims.
It differs greatly than that American pattern where Protestantism has a prominent position there or that in Britain where the Queen is the head of the Anglican Church … as well as many examples in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Every case has its own compromise between religion and politics and between what is religious and what is secular.
Besides, Religion in Morocco is a very important factor and is considered about the means of social solidarity and coherence.
Moroccans are deeply religious and adhere to the values and manners of Islam; the religion of co-existence and peace, positivism and constructions. Monarchy in Morocco was historically based on religion and derives its legitimacy from religion.
Therefore, it has been always a Monarchy that looks after the religious affairs. The king is the commander of the faithful.
Another thing the slogan of Islamic reference is not only restricted in the Justice and Development party but also with many political parties in Morocco.
These concepts are still adopted in Morocco despite the presence of extremist secular figures who work on to eliminate any influences for religion.
Besides, the reality inside the bodies of the state does not reflect the values of religion in many fields. That’s why it became the role of preachers to work on and bring the slogans into reality.
What about your relations with the ruling regime in Morocco?
It is the same relation like with other parties, and as I said the Monarchy in Morocco is based on religious legitimacy.
The evidence is that it is stipulated in the constitution of the state. The king is the commander of the faithful so he is the guard of religion.
The party regards this as a great protection against religious and secular extremism, along with the right to guide and alert about violations that are occurring in reality.
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