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‘I do not force my daughters to wear the veil,’ says head of Morocco’s Islamist JDP head

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There is not much known about Abdelilah Benkirane, head of Morocco’s winning Islamist Justice and Development and the country’s future prime minister. Islamists are generally not keen on talking a lot about their personal lives and that is why they represent a challenge to most journalists.

Benkirane seems different for he welcomed the call he received from Al Arabiya even though he was surrounded by cheering crowds who came to congratulate him after he was assigned by King Mohammed VI to form the first elected government in the history of Morocco.

Rarely seen wearing suits or any kind of formal outfit, Benkirane took many by surprise for going out of his way and wearing a tie in his meeting with the king.

“I never wear ties,” he told Al Arabiya from the town of Midlete in central Morocco. “I just have one at home that I keep for special occasions and this is what I used in my meeting with the king.”

As for his health, Benkirane said that he like to walk and does not suffer from any diseases.

“I only have hypertension, but it is mild and manageable.”

He also likes to play chess and listen to music, the type he called “moderate.”

“When I was young, I used to like all sorts of music, but now I am not in favor of indecent music.”

Benkirane then started talking about his family and said that his father died when he was 90 years old, but this did not stop him from mourning him for a long time.

“He died when I was 16 and I mourned him for seven whole years. He is still my role model and I have never stopped thinking about him.”

As for his mother, she is more than 90 years old and lives with him.

“For me, she is a symbol of everything that is ideal and beautiful in life.”

He added that if she were of his age, she would be the one heading the Justice and Development Party instead of him.

“This is a metaphor for the role of women and it summarizes my beliefs in a few words.”

Benkirane, who was born in 1954 in the Moroccan capital Rabat, said he is married to a Moroccan woman, who is active with him in the party.

“We have six children, all married except the younger boy, who is 20, and the younger girl, who is 12.”

The boy, he added, is a university student, and the girl is disabled.

“She is totally paralyzed.”

When asked whether he forces his daughters to wear the veil, he replied in the negative and alluded to planning to follow the same policy in governance.

“We are not going to ban anything or force anyone as long as everything is in compliance with the law,” he concluded.


(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)