To the Martyrs of March 22nd and March 23rd 1965,
To the families of the martyrs who lost their children and their future,
To the families who never received the remains of loved ones,
To the memory of the martyr, Mehdi Ben Barka, Frantz
Fanon, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X of Morocco.
Alluring to people is the enjoyment of worldly desires through women, and children, and heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, and impressive chargers of high mark, and cattle, and lands. All this amounts to an indulgence in the life of this world — but the most beauteous of all homecoming is with Allah. (3:14).
Hamza Yusuf (aka Mark Hanson) is a believer in constitutional monarchy. It is his preferred system of government. He sings the praises of kings like a canary in a golden cage. The monarchs are his muses. Like a medieval bard, he composes odes in honor of the monarchs from Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and even Saudi Arabia. He is a court cleric who loves cavorting with kings. He rushes to their defense from every platform.
Mr. Hanson believes that constitutional monarchy balances both spiritual authority and temporal power. As he explained in an interview, “Kings do not have the susceptibility for corruption that a poor person or the nouveau riche do. Kings are not hungry. They have everything so they do not need anything.”
“Kings are not hungry.” This will surely go down as a classic quote that will be cited for centuries to come as an example of 21st-century American Sufi wisdom. The claim that kings are not susceptible to corruption conveys the naivete of a nincompoop. Greed increases greed. The lust for power and wealth found among monarchs is insatiable. They are constantly seeking methods to increase their riches. Why own a country when you can own the world?
In 2019, eight men possessed as much wealth as half of the world’s population. Nine years ago, such wealth was in the hands of 43 men. Clearly, the ultra-rich are continuing to concentrate greater and greater wealth into ever fewer hands. There are those who wish to eat the leftovers of the ultra-rich and lick the crumbs from the bottom of their tables. There are others, however, who wish to tip over their tables, return riches to their rightful owners, and give monarchs their just deserts.
Bani Saud is estimated to be worth $1.7 trillion. The Kuwaiti “royal family” is worth approximately $360 billion. The wealth of the “royal family” of Qatar is calculated at $335 million. The “royal family” of Abu Dhabi is worth roughly $150 billion. The British royal family is estimated to be worth $88 billion. Morocco’s royal family is reportedly worth $20 billion. They are part of the 1% that owns most of the world. We, the 99%, have the right and duty to oppose them, destroy them, and ensure the fair and equitable redistribution of wealth. As Imam ‘Ali (a) said, “When you see a man who has nothing, know for sure that someone else has stolen his share.” Almighty Allah (swt) has provided a share of sustenance to each soul. Those who lack were deprived of their rightful share.
While human beings are entitled to legitimately acquire land and property, they have no right to treat entire nations as such. As the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) warned, “Whoever seizes unlawfully a hand-span of land, a collar of seven lands will hang around his neck [in the hereafter]” (al-Bukhari and Muslim). The King of Morocco, however, owns and controls much of the country’s land, natural resources, and economy. The same can be said of the royals in the Gulf.
From the time of its discovery to the present, the monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula have treated oil, not as the property of the people and the nation, but as their own personal property. As Almighty Allah (swt) describes them in the glorious Qur’an, “… even though they may enjoy their life [in this world], and eat as cattle eat, the fire [of the hereafter] shall be their abode” (47:12). They are those who “consume… wealth unjustly” (2:188; 4:29). They are those who “devour men’s possession and turn away from the path of Allah” (9:34). They are those who “hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way” (9:35). They are those “who exceed the limits of Allah” (2:229). They are those who are “violent in their love of wealth” (100:8). They are the Pharaohs of our times.
Although Muhammad VI of Morocco portrays himself as the “King of the Poor” and Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia boasts that “I spend a least 51% on people and 49 on myself,” the microscopic percentage of money that they invest on their people cannot be presented as altruistic charitable acts since their ill-begotten wealth belongs to the people in the first place. The little that trickles down is simply returning to its rightful owners.
The fortunes of the royal families of the world are intrinsically immoral. The wealth of royals is obscene. Their lifestyles are excessive. The extent of their greed and avarice would be incomprehensible in the eyes of pirates. Their debauchery is legendary and makes the corruption depicted in the Arabian Nights pale in comparison.
“If a king is good, he will raise his children to be good,” claims Hamza Yusuf with sagacity. The reality, however, is that kings are bad. Following Mr. Hanson’s logic, “If a king is bad, he will raise his children to be bad.” As history evidences, monarchy, in the hands of anyone who is not an infallible prophet, is an inherently evil form of government. Such is the consensus of most of humanity when it comes to hereditary monarchy. Where has Mr. Hanson been for the past 200 years of Western history?
Monarchies were abolished for well-founded reasons. They were replaced by republics and democracies, systems of government that are not favored by the American Sufi. If Mr. Hanson prefers Arab, Persian, and Asian monarchs over parliamentary democracies, one must wonder where he has been for the past 1,400 years of Islamic history. The khilafah of the first four khalifahs was certainly not a parliamentary monarchy. The dynasties that followed, from the Umayyads to the ‘Abbasids, and all the way to the Ottomans, were not parliamentary monarchies. None of the latter are suitable sources of inspiration for our day and age. If Islamists are stuck in the 7th century, Hamza Yusuf appears to be stranded in the 17th century. His political views are not bringing us forward, they are dragging us backward.
How Hamza Yusuf can support monarchy is perplexing considering the Prophet Muhammad’s objection to that political model. As the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) foretold,
There will be prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be khilafah on the prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting kingship for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, and then there will be khilafah upon the prophetic method (Ahmad ibn Hanbal).
Monarchy, according to the Messenger of Allah, was a deviation, aberration, and perversion of the prophetic model. He explicitly stated that the monarchies that would follow the early khilafah would be oppressive and that ultimately they would have to be overthrown by the will of God. What applies to the future, applies to the present, and is based on the past. As Almighty Allah (swt) makes clear in the glorious Qur’an, the towns, cities, and civilizations that were destroyed before were annihilated because they placed power in the hands of the rich (11:102; 18:59; 21:11; 28:59; 35:45),
But when it is Our will to destroy a community, We convey our last warning to those of its people who have lost themselves entirely in the pursuit of pleasures, and if they [continue to] act sinfully, the sentence [of doom] passed on the community takes effect, and We break it to smittereens (17:16).
According to Hamza Yusuf, “We have a great example in Morocco. The King in Morocco comes from a good, well-esteemed and clean family. He loves his people and his people love him.” As moderate as it may appear compared to the military dictatorships, autocratic republics, and totalitarian monarchies of the Muslim world, the Kingdom of Morocco is not a model worthy of emulation. Muhammad VI, and his father Hasan II, may seem like minor offenders when contrasted to the Shah of Iran and Saddam Husayn, however, they are offenders, nonetheless.
Muhammad V was placed in power, not by his people, but by the French. Although Morocco was historically a French Protectorate under the guide of a sultanate, and not a kingdom, he adopted the title of “malik” or “king” in 1957. Following the advice that the French gave his predecessors, he also adopted the title of amir al-mu’minin or “leader of the believers.” According to the Official Bulletin of September 20, 1979, the King of Morocco is the holder of legitimate authority, the shadow of God on earth, and His secular arm in the world. Such is the authority that is conferred to the king of Morocco through the pledge of allegiance ceremony.
Muhammad V was placed in power by the French between 1923 and 1953 and then between 1955 and 1957 at a time when colonized people throughout the world were asserting their independence. Unable to curtail the popular wave, the French decided to place a subservient surfer upon it, thereby permitting them to maintain control and influence in Morocco after its apparent independence. Although most of the Moroccan activists at the time were advocates of democratic, nationalistic, socialist republics, the independence movement was co-opted by pro-Western monarchists who would soon ruthlessly crush the proponents of participative political models.
When Hasan II came to power in 1961, he ushered in decades of oppression, political persecution, and human rights violations that came to be known as the Years of Lead. This was facilitated by the fact the CIA had reorganized Morocco’s security forces. In 1962, he had a constitution drafted that placed all power in the hands of the monarchy. In 1965, he dissolved the parliament, thereby enabling him to rule as a dictator.
In March of 1965, it was announced that 60% of young people would be denied the right to the second cycle of high school education. As a result, nearly 15,000 students gathered to protest the plans in Casablanca on March 22, 1965. Tens of thousands of them gathered to peacefully protest in Casablanca. The response from the regime was brutal with police officers opening fire on the protestors without provocation and promptly burying the dead during the night.
Outraged at the unprovoked and unjustified brutality of the regime, the student protest continued the second day, on March 23, and turned more aggressive as a natural response to the violence unleashed by the monarchy. Violence in self-defense is no crime or sin. This time, however, Hasan II, who reportedly commanded the operations directly from the port, declared a national emergency and mobilized the army alongside the police: 400 army trucks and 20 tanks entered the Casablanca neighborhood at the center of the protest while barricades of machine guns blocked all exits. The defenseless and unarmed students were surrounded and set up for slaughter. The King and his cabal were determined to make an example of them.
As Marguerite Rollinde relates in Le Mouvementmarocain des droits de l’homme,
The repression was immediate… General Oufkir did not hesitate to machine-gun the crowd from a helicopter. The tanks took two days to put an end to the last protesters. The casualties were very high. Two thousand people were judged by the tribunals.
Although the authorities claimed only a dozen people died as a result of the repression, the foreign press, and activists from the Union Nationale des Forces Populaire (UNFP), along with scholars and researchers like Omar Brousky and Jean-François Clément speak of over 1,000 victims, all of whom were buried in mass graves. Thousands of activists were judged by tribunals: half of whom were condemned.
With its 1,000 victims, the Casablanca Massacre of 1965, committed under the command of Hasan II, places its perpetrators in the category of war criminals. Hasan II was not faced with a coup d’etat being committed by communists, fascists, or takfiris that was aimed at installing a totalitarian state in Morocco. Hasan II had over 1,000 students and socially disadvantaged people slaughtered for the sole sin of demanding the right to complete high school education. If the history of repression in some other Muslim nations revolved around takfiri terrorists and fascists, in Morocco, it was directed against pro-democracy dissidents who were demanding fundamental civil and universal human rights.
As if that were not enough, the crowning glory of Hasan II is the fact that he tipped off Israeli intelligence about the imminent Six Day War in 1967. According to the Israelis, it was thanks to the King of Morocco that they won the war. In fact, until the time of his death in 1999, Hasan II made Morocco the backdoor to Israel and even allowed them to establish diplomatic headquarters in the kingdom. Pro-American and pro-Zionist, he was viewed by the West as a “friendly dictator.” After all, the only dictators that the West refuses to tolerate are those who defend the sovereignty of their nations and wish to invest their resources on their own people, infrastructure, and economies.
Sometimes one wonders whether Hamza Yusuf ever came across “Friendly Dictator Trading Cards” as a teenager. One of mine featured King Hasan II. It reads,
Like his former ally, the Shah of Iran, King Hasan II of Morocco spares himself no earthly delight. He has seven principal palaces; keeps 260 horses in just one of his many stables; boards most of his camels, ostriches, and zebras with his 945 head of cattle and his 1,500-acre dairy farm; and he’s got a couple of harems. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Morocco is over 20%, and 85% of the population lives in abject poverty, sheltering in makeshift huts in the country’s increasingly swollen cities.