Copyright: Morocco World News

Morocco’s Parti de la justice et du développement (PJD) led government has once again stepped up the pressure on the more radical Al-Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality) association. As well as suspending the three medical professors and trying to level blame for the medical student exam boycott on the party, it has continued to target individual members by sealing off their houses.

The Moroccan state also prevented Al-Adl Wal Ihsane members from engaging in the religious practice of ‘Itikaf’. This is a devotional ritual in which worshippers shut themselves away in seclusion in the mosque in order to shun the material world and focus on God. The group accused the authorities of having prevented this ritual from taking place in a number of mosques in eastern Morocco during Ramadan.

This latest clampdown is part of the government’s wider efforts to curtail the movement, which is becoming an ever more potent social and political force.

The PJD has long had a problematic relationship with Al-Adl Wal Ihsane. This stems in part from the fact that, as two Islamist movements, they have been competing over the same constituencies for many years. However, there are also ideological differences between the two factions, which have adopted very different political strategies.

The PJD — as well as being drawn from the same ideological stable as the Muslim Brotherhood — prioritises reform over revolution and believes in working within the political system in order to change it from within. It accepts the monarchy and the principle of multi-party democracy but, like the wider Muslim Brotherhood movement, wants it ‘run along Islamic lines’ although it has never been able to articulate exactly what it means by this.

Al-Adl Wal Ihsane — which is more Sufist in its religious outlook — is more radical in its outlook. It rejects the monarchy and refuses all political participation in the formal mechanisms of governance. It seeks to achieve Al-Qawma, which literally means to stand up, but which refers to the idea of rising up against the ruling authority in the desire to establish the Islamic state, although it does not believe in using violence in order to do so.

Al-Adl Wal Ihsane therefore believes that the PJD has sold out and rejects it willingness to be co-opted by the Palace and to take part in the government. Indeed, it views the PJD as part of the corrupt elite that is running the country today.

This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here if you would like to receive a free sample.