Belgian media has reported that the Moroccan Prime minister refused to speak with the female Belgian Minister of Justice during a recent meeting. According to a translation of the report:
Rabat (Morocco) – April 11, 2012 On that day the Moroccan Prime minister, Abdelilah Benkiran, received in audience Didier Reynders, Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs and Annemie Turtelboom, minister of Justice. Both Belgians got a cold reception. Abdelilah Benkiran does not seem to conceive that a foreign government could send a female representative to talk with him. During the whole meeting, he talked strictly with Didier Reynders. Worse, the Moroccan PM explained to his visitor that he speaks French very well and that it was ‘useless to bring an interpreter with him’. The message is clear: I do not speak with a woman. Annemie Turtelboom could not believe it. All the dossiers she is responsible of (and they are not light ones: equality between men and women, forced marriages, return of convicted prisoners in their home country) were eventually tackled by Didier Reynders. Facing them, the Moroccan held to his prayer beads during the whole meeting.After the meeting, Annemie Turtelboom was furious. If Didier Reynders had not been there and if she had not feared to provoke a major diplomatic incident, she would have left and slammed the door, she said. The anecdote is significant. Abdelilah Benkiran is a member of the Justice and Development Party, the Islamist party that won the last elections. In the last few days, he even criticized the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, something never seen before. ‘The Arab Spring is not over yet. It is still here and could well come back’, he said according to Reuters. Two weeks after the incident, the Belgian side has not done anything yet. Annemie Turtelboom’s spokesperson now claims that the Moroccan PM was joking around and that he ended up apologizing. Unofficially though, those who told me the anecdote are not sure that these apologies were expressed.
French version here.
English translation by Point de Bascule
In December 2001, a post reported that Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi was among the first of the Islamic scholars to congratulate the Justice and Development Party (JDP) on its parliamentary victory. In June of that year, African media reported on comments by Abdelilah Benkiran stridently objecting to freedom of religion and tolerance of homosexuality. In March 2001, another post reported that a JDP leader was one of the participants at conference that brought together an unusual and significant number of participants from the Global Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian Brotherhood, and other Islamist movements that also included Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian political party tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood that was victorious in recent elections there.