Morocco's Islamist movement leaves reform group

AP News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 9:15 AM
Morocco's Islamist movement leaves reform group

A powerful Islamist organization in Morocco said it is suspending its support for the country's pro-democracy movement, dealing a severe blow to the group that once put tens of thousands people on streets.

The Islamist al-Adl wal-Ihsane (Justice and Charity) group said they were ending their role in the weekly protests that have taken place in this North African monarchy since February, because the movement had been taken over by elements that wanted to limit the demands for change.

The absence of the Islamists from the protests will further weaken the reform movement, whose power has greatly diminished since an opposition party won the Nov. 25 elections in the kingdom.

The Justice and Charity group has been a stalwart presence at the weekly democracy protests organized by February 20th pro-democracy movement that shook the country earlier this year.

"At the beginning of the demonstrations, we agreed with the demands for the end to despotism and corruption and only the street would decide the limit of the demands," said the group's spokesman Hassan Bennajeh. "With time, we found many elements want to impose the parliamentary monarchy as a limit _ we do not agree."

Some members of the religious group, which is banned from politics but tolerated by authorities, have called for Morocco to become a republic, while the February 20 movement would only like to relegate the king to a figurehead role in a parliamentary monarchy.

The movement's name comes from the date it hit the streets after a wave of pro-democracy protests that have rocked many Arab countries this year.

Omar Radi, a prominent member of the organization said that while the decision of the Islamist group's will have an effect on the movement it will not, however, mean the end of February 20th.

"The movement will continue because all the reasons for the anger still exist in Morocco," he said.

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Morocco's king moved swiftly to meet some of the demonstrators demands when the protests began and proposed a series of constitutional reforms that gave more power to the elected government.

The country drafted a new constitution and on Nov. 25 an Islamist party, long in opposition, won the poll.

Pro-democracy activists say all the changes are merely a decor and that most power is still in the hands of the king and his advisers.

The new head of government, Abdelilah Benkirane of the Justice and Development Party, has offered dialogue with the February 20 movement but they have refused.

The Justice and Charity group, meanwhile, said it still believed in the legitimacy of the democracy movement's demands and called for a change in the "archaic regime."