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Cablegate: Morocco and Western Sahara International Religious

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0915 2681739
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241739Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9156
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 4897
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 9721
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 4313

UNCLAS RABAT 000915

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL/IRF, DRL/SEA, DRL/NESCA AND NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV OPRC KIRF KPAO MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO AND WESTERN SAHARA INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM REPORTS DELIVERED

REF: STATE 099226

1. Poloff delivered copies of the 2008 International
Religious Freedom Reports (IRFRs) for Morocco and the Western
Sahara to Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Head of United
Nations Division Azzedine Farhane with other copies to convey
to Moroccan Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmed
Toufiq on September 22. English, French, and Arabic copies
of the IRFRs were delivered and posted on Post's website.

2. Media reaction to the reports was widespread and largely
laudatory. The press stressed the positive aspects of the
Morocco report, citing the passage saying that "Morocco
continues to encourage tolerance, respect and dialogue among
religious groups," and noting that Morocco is the only Arab
country where there is a Jewish museum. At the same time,
the press cited cases mentioned in the report of harassment
of Christian groups, as well as negative attitudes towards
Ba'hais.

3. Moroccan independent French-language daily Le Soir
carried an article entitled, "Religion Freedom: Washington
spares Morocco," reporting that "in the State Department's
annual report, published last Friday, the U.S. spared Morocco
once more from the list of Arab states that are most
religiously intolerant. This list is headed by Algeria,
Jordan, and Egypt in 2007-08."

4. Islamist Arabic-language daily Attajdid also carried an
article on the IRFR entitled "Abdessalam Ballaji: The U.S.
report on religious freedom is a means to help extremist
Evangelical groups." The article is based on a brief
interview with Abdessalam Ballaji, a Moroccan researcher on
Islam and political science, who stated that, "The report on
freedom of religions, issued annually by the State
Department, is used as a means of pressure on countries,
especially Islamic countries, to allow extremist evangelical
groups to find a foothold among (its) peoples...and to create
Christian minorities that would allow America to intervene
later on the pretext of protecting those minorities from
religious oppression and safeguarding their rights."

5. The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that
the IRFR be included as a part of the annual Country Reports
on Human Rights Practices. We have explained the separate
legislative mandate and may reiterate the explanation during
the next human rights dialogue.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
*****************************************

Jackson

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