It should come as no surprise that the west’s favourite clients in the Muslim world have adopted some of the double standards so prevalent in the ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ west. Take the example of the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. While lecturing the two about violating nuclear non-proliferation rules, there was no hint that the five existing members of the ‘nuclear club’ - referred to as the P-5 - have any responsibility of their own. They are above their own rules.
The nuclear field, however, is only one part of their hypocrisy even if it is the most obvious because of its ‘big bang’ effect. In politics, western double standards have been perfected to an art. Even its client regimes have adopted these methods that work so well in the west.
Dictators in North Africa and the rest of the Middle East have discovered the utility of democracy in the service of the monarchy. King Hasan of Morocco and king Husain of Jordan are two specimen of this variety. They have survived on the thrones of their countries largely because of western support. Both have also found democracy a useful tool to prolong their repressive rule, the Jordanian leading than the Moroccan in this area. Aware that he does not have too long to live, king Hasan has suddently become a ‘democrat.’ He wants to bring in his secular opponents to facilitate a smooth transition to his son who neither enjoys the shrewdness of his father nor commands the same respect. But king Hasan’s new-found love for democracy extends only to the secularists. Long-time secular opponents are welcome as long as it keeps those troublesome Islamic activists at bay. Last March, Abderrahman Youssoufi was appointed prime minister in a cabinet that is still stacked by the king’s favourites including the dreaded Driss Basri, the interior minister. Basri is seen as the monarch’s hit-man. For 20 years he has been the de facto prime minister.
Youssoufi comes to his post with good credentials as far as the west is concerned. He has spent all his political life in opposition. In this time, he has faced imprisonment, kidnappings and even 15 years in exile in France. His resume also includes stints as a human rights activists. This has made him quite popular in the west. His greatest asset, from the west’s point of view, is that he is thoroughly secular and his love for human rights does not extend to Muslim activists.
When he became prime minister - the elections were held in November but because of jockeying for power, his appointed was made only in March - Youssoufi promised to release all political prisoners. Shaikh Abdessalam Yassine, head of Al-Adl wal Ihsan party, however, continues to languish in jail. The party is also banned. Last November, Mouncif Azouzi, a student at the Moulay Abdellah university, was shot dead by the police. He was a supporter of Al-Adl wal Ihsan. The student protests had erupted in Casablanca a month earlier demanding the withdrawal of police from university campuses.
Youssoufi’s appointement has another sinister purpose as well. Morocco is reeling under massive social and economic problems caused as a direct result of 40 years of political repression. Illiteracy rate is more than 50 percent; the educational system is on the verge of collapse and most parts of the rural areas are ‘in a state of unimaginable neglect, some without water and electricity,’ according to Youssoufi’s own admission. He has been charged with the herculian task of putting things right. The budget deficit is forcast at 4 percent this year and nearly 75 percent of it is consumed by debt servicing and public salaries. Like the rest of the Middle East, Morocco has a bloated and meddlesome bureaucracy that thrives on making life miserable for everyone, including the prime minister, whatever his credentials.
King Hasan knows that Youssoufi faces a daunting task. This will be further compounded by the question of the Western Sahara which is expected to hold a referendum under UN auspices soon. If the vote goes against Morocco, it will be blamed on Youssoufi. Similarly, in the absence of progress on the economic and social fronts, will son be blamed on the new prime minister, thereby discrediting his opponents for the ills caused by the king’s own incompetence and mismanagement.
Making their critics take responsibility for their own errors is a trick used by all megalomaniacs. King Hasan is more adept at it than most. If Youssoufi is foolish enough to be used in such a way, he deserves the fall from grace that is inevitable. While the king may try to blame the secularists and socialists for these failures, the only beneficiary will be the Islamic Movement. This is something neither the king nor his new prime minister can prevent.
Muslimedia: July 1-15, 1998