"Undermining Islam;" Moroccan Given 2 Years Imprisonment for Blasphemy

In Morocco, an internet user was sentenced to two years in prison for the charges of undermining and “attacking” the Islamic religion.

On September 13, a Moroccan woman, blogger Fatima Karim, was sentenced to two years in prison by the Court of Appeal of Khouribga for "undermining the Islamic religion" after she posted “offensive” writings on Facebook.

Fatima Karim, a 39 years old Oued Zem native, was in detention since mid-July for sharing satirical comments in Arabic on her Facebook page on verses of the Quran and hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad, which are considered sacred texts in the Muslim tradition.

The Moroccan internet blogger was sentenced to two years for "electronically attacking the religion." Fatima's lawyer, Habib Aadi, said, "It's a very harsh verdict" and further added that the appeal in cassation is "still under study."

In the trial, Fatima exercised her right to freedom of speech under the Moroccan constitution before the judge. She also publicly apologized to "anyone who felt offended" by her publications, reassuring that it was never her intention to undermine the Islamic religion. Fatima claims that she supports secularism which means the indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.

The public prosecutor initiated the prosecution. The penalty is likely to be increased to five years in prison if the offense is again committed publicly, including through social media posts.

Article 267-5 of the Moroccan Penal Code, under which Fatima Karim was sentenced, severely punishes "anyone who undermines the Islamic religion." Following the article, the Moroccan courts can deliver sentences from 6 months to two years in prison and add fines from MAD 20,000 ($1,916) to MAD 200,000 ($19,163).

Activists in Morocco criticize the law as a restriction on freedom of expression, which "does not concretely specify the facts that could constitute an infringement."

Last year in June, an Italian-Moroccan woman was also convicted for "undermining the Islamic religion." She was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after she posted satirical phrases imitating the verses in Quran on Facebook in 2019. Following a protest campaign by human rights defenders, the anonymous woman's sentence was reduced to a two-month prison sentence after an appeal, and she was released shortly after.

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