Saudi media is reporting that the Moroccan Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Justice and Development Party has denied that his party “belongs” to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to an Asharq Alawsat report:
20/02/2013 Our party does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. We are part of their school (of thought) however we don’t have an organizational relationship with them. We have our own special development, ideology, and institutes.’ With this sentence, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, who is also Secretary-General of the country’s Islamist Justice and Development Party, drew a dividing line between his political party and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. He took pains to emphasize ideological, developmental, and political distinctions, particularly during this time when huge comparisons are being made between the regional Islamist movements, some of which came to power against the backdrop of the Arab Spring wave. With this statement, Benkirane emphasizes the differences embraced by his party since its first establishment, when it was known by a different name. This approach was influenced by Morocco’s historic situation and the nature of Islam in the country, as well as the political conditions that allowed party founder Dr. Abdul Kareem Al-Khatib to participate in numerous governments since the country’s independence. Dr. Al-Khatib participated in Moroccan governments under King Mohammed V, and then later during the reign of King Hassan II. He also headed Morocco’s first parliament following the 1963 elections. The Moroccan Freedom and Justice party has excelled at one other thing since its establishment, namely emphasizing—in all of its endeavors—that it is operating within the framework of the constitutional monarchy and the Moroccan democratic concept. This is something that was made clear in a message to certain national Islamist movements, especially those that have moved towards a conspiracy and coup-based approach in order to reach power. Benkirane confirmed his party’s continuance of its approach in statements he made at a recent meeting with a number of Arab media representatives, which was published by Asharq Al-Awsat last Wednesday. During this meeting, Benkirane clarified that ‘the Moroccans have a historical awareness that the monarchy represents stability and guarantees unity.’
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Despite Mr. Benkirane’s statement denying that his party “belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood”, in December 2011 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. In March 2011, 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 Muslim Brotherhood. A post from last August 2012 reported that the Moroccan Minister of Family was opposed to modifying the Moroccan Criminal Code that allows a man guilty of rape on a minor to escape his sentence by marrying his victim. A post from April 2012 reported that the Moroccan Prime minister had refused to speak with the female Belgian Minister of Justice during an official meeting. In June 2011, African media reported on comments by Abdelilah Benkiran stridently objecting to freedom of religion and tolerance of homosexuality.