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Moroccans call for reform of ‘demeaning’ royal protocol

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While Morocco has largely abstained from the revolts that have spread across the Arab world, the unrest has prompted some in the country to broach a previously taboo subject: calling for reform of the Moroccan royal protocol, which some say is demeaning to ordinary citizens.

Deputy President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights Abdelhamid Amin publicly denounced in a televised program the tradition of kissing the hand and prostration before the king.

Mr. Amin said during State TV 2M’s “Live with You” program recently that those acts were “disgraceful” and tantamount to “slavery.”

His remarks were later reportedly discussed in a cabinet meeting when several ministers slammed the state TV’s decision to invite him for the show. All government officials—including senior ministers—and virtually every citizen of this country of about 32 million people observe the protocols. (Morocco’s GDP is about $154 billion, and the per capita income is about $5000.)

Ahmad Assid, a researcher and rights activist, said the first public breach for the royal protocol came in 2002 when he and 24 other civil society activists had a “normal” hand shake with the king.

“Our behavior was received gently and with a wide smile by the king, but the protocol officers had a different opinion,” Mr. Assid said.

“I call for the cancellation of this tradition that is humiliating to our dignity and I consider its continuation a sign of the regime’s refusal to keep pace with the progressive changes now shaking the world,” he added.

Mustapha El Khalfi, executive committee member of the moderate Islamist party Justice and Development, said, “Some aspects of the royal protocol need to be revised in line with the changes taking place in the 20th century.”

The royal protocol in the Kingdom can be traced back to the Almoravid dynasty in the 12th century, but it has changed form overtime depending on historical and social conditions and on the willingness of the people to accept it, according to reports.

Following the independence from France in 1956, especially after late King Hassan II was enthroned, the royal protocol was given particular emphasis. That includes the practices of kissing the king’s hand and prostrating before him.


(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])