Translated from the Arabic that was published by Al-Usbou iya Al-Jadida in its issue # 33; July 2-8, 2005
Journalist: Some observers have noticed that the Americans are making contacts with JSA s through various channels and that is what JSA officials have indeed confirmed. Some interpreted such contacts as attempts by the Americans to find a particular form for integrating JSA in the Moroccan political scene. What do you think?
Nadia Yassine: In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Grace and Peace be upon His Messenger. If JSA officials have made any declarations regarding the said contacts, they are best informed about them and I cannot talk on their behalf.
On the other hand, I may speak about what concerns me. The University of Berkley invited me as a thinker and writer, or rather as an intellectual. I was not invited by the White House, the Pentagon or the Capitol, or any other official institution. The university that invited me is most known by opposing the American official policy, namely that of President Bush.
Journalist: But the invitation came within a global atmosphere most hostile to all that is Islamic since all that is ideologically Islamic is labelled as terrorism. Don t you think that things are not as simple as you imagine?
N.Y.: I don t know. I agree with you when you say that there is a clear trend in America that has turned the US from a State of law to a State that forces its decisions even on what used to be free zones, so to speak. What you have said is probable. Anyway, this only confirms that Americans themselves certify that JSA is not a terrorist organization.
Journalist: In the same context, are there any contacts by the Moroccan regime with JSA to incorporate it in the political scene as a lawful political constituent?
N.Y.: I don t think there are any direct contacts. So long as the Makhzen [Moroccan-born appellation of the Moroccan regime] is none but a docile servant of the global regimes, the contacts you have imagined do not exist even though the Makhzen dreams of incorporating JSA a dream that will never come true.
Journalist: There are some reproaches on JSA s domestic affairs, among which is that JSA does not open the way to its young members to take initiatives in decision-making, especially that they want JSA to take part in the Moroccan political scene within a legal framework. Is JSA s young community being marginalized?
N.Y.: I don t know if this resentful young community, as you called it, ever exists. I wonder what prevents them from materializing their initiatives through the Parti de la Justice et du Développement (hereinafter the PJD), which will surely open to them the way. The PJD takes part in the political game and views it as a political paradise while we, in the JSA, view it as hell.
Taking part in the Makhzen s game means accepting to serve as instruments and puppets, which we won t accept. I think that the young community is fully aware of the clear principles on which JSA is based principles that bind its members and don t bind others. I don t think that the problem you have mentioned exists in JSA.
Journalist: You ve described taking part in the Makhzen s political game as hell whereas the political field is not governed by such absolute binarism: negative and positive. Don t you think that politics implies the use of manoeuvres that can turn what is possible into reality? Why this tendency to keep JSA politically virgin?
N.Y.: I think we have talked many a time about this matter. But there is no problem if speaking again of the subject will be useful.
Journalist (interrupting Nadia Yassine): What is new about your abstention from entering the political arena in its current condition?
N.Y.: There is nothing new because there is nothing new in Morocco. The Makhzen each time takes on a new colour; it is a renowned political chameleon. Yet the chameleon does not change into, say, a dinosaur though this simile may not be relevant.
Journalist: Change applies to everybody. Nobody remains unchanged. Then what has changed in JSA?
N.Y.: Please let me finish my answer to the previous question. We always talk of the Makhzen as though it gives real opportunities, as though we have a democratic game, a free parliament with advantages and disadvantages, etc. There is nothing of that. Everyone now knows how the Makhzen uses the parties and the institutions for its own interests and objectives. I don t think that any alert Moroccan sees the contrary. Indeed, taking part in this dirty game will sully our image and will cause us to lose one important thing: the Moroccans confidence.
As for what is new in the JSA, various changes have taken place in the field on which we focus so much, that is, education (social, moral, and spiritual). We have an educational project to which the press, unfortunately, does not attach importance and in which we are making good progress (praise be to God!). The scope of education is getting increasingly wider and we re preparing our young community to a future we see as very near though others see it as impossible it is the liberation of Moroccan people from the yoke of tyranny.
Journalist: Why do you declare, in the JSA, that you accept the political game while you re standing outside the electoral operation?
N.Y.: Because Morocco is not a democratic country. We refuse this game the way the Makhzen wants it. But we accept it if democracy is a feasible instrument that meets with our perception of shûra [Islamic-born democracy]. Among the signs of a true democracy are free elections, which is not the case in Morocco. That s why we can t accept a fake game with fake elections. Everyone knows that the elections in Morocco are either falsified or conditioned, as was the case with the PJD s last experience. Therefore, we re not against the elections but rather against their lot in Morocco.
Journalist: How do you assess the PJD s participation in the political game now that it is many years old?
N.Y.: My sincerity is a bit excessive and causes me to have many enemies. I don t want to speak evil of those people, for they have a great deal of sincerity and thought that, by playing the game, they will change the regime. Yet it was the Makhzen that actually changed the essence of their participation and exploited them even worse than the other parties.
By playing the game, they granted the Makhzen the opportunity to substantiate its allegations as being a real democracy that was able to incorporate even the Islamists. That is a victory for the Makhzen according to the global view of political participation. Add to this that among the things they are defending now is taking the place of Alaoui Mdaghri [former eternal Minister of Islamic Affairs], that is, official Salafi Islam. Now the Makhzen ( thank God !) holds sway over Sufism and Salafism. And those are opportunities it draws benefit from&
Journalist (interrupting Nadia Yassine): Only JSA misses in the cocktail?
N.Y.: God save us& !
Journalist: Though the Makhzen is courting you?
N.Y.: We won t give them the chance as others have done.
Journalist: Is it that impossible? What are the JSA s conditions to take part in the political game?
N.Y.: Our conditions are many but clear. The first of these conditions is the Constitution, which is like a lock. We must review the essence of the Constitution and have guarantees that the king-granted Constitution will leave no way to regressions, twists and turns&
Journalist: What are the most important objections on the current Constitution?
N.Y.: There are so many&
Journalist: Let us, at least, talk of the most important?
N.Y.: Let s start with Article 19, which concentrates all powers in the hand of the King. Let s not forget that the whole Constitution is one intricate code worth of being consigned to the scrap heap of history. We must devise a new Constitution based on real democratic principles.
Journalist: All right! Then what is the constitutional form and content that you want for Morocco?
N.Y.: We re not in a position to decide on behalf of Moroccans. Otherwise, we will reiterate the Makhzen s model that we refuse. If things were to be like that, then let s keep the current constitutional version. When my father [Imam Abdessalam Yassine, JSA s Guide-General) talked of the Islamic Pact, he did not mean exclusion of other political constituents, as the press have alleged. By the way, among the reproaches we have on the press is that they didn t delve into the contents of his book on the subject, hiwâr ma a al-fudalâ ad-dimuqrâtiyyîn [Dialog with the Honourable Democrats].
The Pact enjoins all parties to participate notwithstanding the controversies they have with each other, which the Makhzen has indeed exacerbated to its own advantage. Those controversies are either based on tribal or political motives though we cannot talk now of a real controversy: today the Leftists would rather die than change Article 19 of the Constitution. I won t say more than that. As for tribal controversies, we accept specificities. My father is of Berber origin and is proud of being Berber.
Journalist: Do you speak Berber?
N.Y.: (laughs) a little bit! However, I don t think we should remain prisoners of this tribal approach while the entire world is getting united and looks for common grounds with regard to broader issues. That s not sensible. That s why we have proposed the Islamic Pact so that all the political parties may join forces to lead Morocco towards a positive and safe direction.
Journalist: Don t you think that your statements bear contradictions? You say it is impossible to take part in the political game while you re talking of a possible cooperation with political parties among which there are some taking part in the game?
N.Y.: Indeed, the parties are taking part in the Makhzen s game. Yet we take into account that those parties have people of goodwill inside. We have said that many a time contrary to what is circulated by the press. But those people are prisoners of their party system and we want to help them, namely what is called the civil society, make positive achievements. If we don t stay optimistic, this means that Morocco is a hopeless case.
We have to work with the positive elements of the society because we re against violence and exclusion and we re for progressive change. We even say that we need a transitory period. If there is a 10% will of change, it is better than nothing and we re ready to start from this percentage. But we refuse to work within a framework that is already devised by the central power.
Journalist: Which of the political scene s actors do you agree with even though your background differs from theirs to the extent of being contradictory?
N.Y.: We re facing a serious challenge in Morocco, for the Makhzen has tamed and exploited everybody. We believe that, to get out of this rut, we need to find a common ground. The problem of ideological background is not that serious since even the Moroccan Communist Party does not refuse the Islamic identity and everyone says we re Muslims.
Journalist: Who do you mean by the communists who say we re Muslims?
N.Y.: I think, for instance, of the late Ali Yata (God have mercy upon him!). Even the champions of secularism and irreligionism declare and recognize that the legitimacy of power in Morocco is based on religion. What if there was a legitimacy that gathers all of us within an Islamic framework that guarantees a multitude of freedoms.
We have spoken of those freedoms in the Islamic Pact and stated that we re ready to reach a stage where manifestos will be clear, the people will be mobilized for a real democratic life, and the elections will be so free that the people may say: we don t want the Islamic identity, we don t want the JSA. For Morocco we want a Constitution that protects the Moroccans from OUR usurping of power. Is there any political sincerity clearer than this? I don t think.
Journalist: The office of Commander of the Faithful is one of the controversial issues between the JSA and the regime. But don t you think that debating over this office will open the way to secularism?
N.Y.: We re fully aware of this challenge. But we think it is the lesser of evils. The seculars say: we d better have a Commander of the Faithful than those Islamists who would be more royalists than the king. The other Islamists will say: we d better have a Commander of the Faithful, with all his shortcomings, than those seculars. That s a strange thing in Morocco.
As for us, we welcome the seculars and want them to suggest their programs and be ready to play the political game. This way, even the advocates of irreligionism will have the right to voice their opinions, provided that there is a clear political game and a real democratic choice. We don t refute the seculars and the irreligionists. What we want is a political system based on real democracy.
Journalist: Some newspapers have reported that in the University of Berkley you said that the feasible system for Morocco is the Republican system without monarchy. In which context you said that and can you elaborate your argument?
N.Y.: That was written after I came back from America so that it may sound like a declaration of mine, which is not the case. I gave a lecture in the University of Berkley in which I didn t mention the word Republic . The integral text of the lecture may be found in the JSA s website [www.aljamaa.net].
I don t say that out of fear. Indeed, I talked of the Republic but in a different context when I met with a researcher in the said university. That s a personal conviction that binds none but me. I speak as an intellectual analysing a particular situation. But when we say that Monarchy does not befit us, this compels us to give an alternative. What happened is that I was asked to choose between Monarchy and the Republic&
Journalist: You chose the Republic?
N.Y.: Of course, the Republic. This is an academic opinion. If I had to choose between autocracy and republicanism, I would opt for the latter. That s what I said in an academic context and binds none but me. I m not the JSA s spokesperson but I have my own convictions that I express with frankness. I didn t say that in America as if I were seeking its protection to voice my opinion. The argument was in the academic context that I mentioned earlier. What was published on the subject is not a sort of media makeshift, for I expressed the same opinion many years ago in the national press.
Journalist: What is new about Morocco, governed for centuries by a monarchical system, that makes you say that the republican system without monarchy, from an academic viewpoint, is the most feasible for Morocco?
N.Y.: When we speak in an academic context, we re governed by what is theoretical and strategic, which is at variance with the political reality. According to such reality, Moroccans are not ready for a republican system. We believe that political activity cannot take place unless the people participate in it. We respect the popular choice. I think that if we organize elections or a referendum supervised by the U.N. for we cannot guarantee the absence of electoral rigging and ask the Moroccan people: do you want a monarchical system or a republican one? I m sure that the majority will support the monarchy because we don t have a political culture.
Journalist: Let s us keep talking about what is academic. How would you justify the feasibility of the republican system rather than the monarchical one in Morocco?
N.Y.: Because the republican system is closer to our perception of things.
Journalist: Who? The JSA?
N.Y.: (laughs) You re involving the JSA! It is rather what I think is best because the shûra system is based on what is republican. The problem is that when the Umayyad and the Abbassid usurped power, they estranged people from the real political culture. Surely, we lived a sort of secularism in our political history but things have gone worse since then. In Morocco, we re told: this is your restricted area, the Family Code , and the like. But as far as political power is concerned, it is none of your business. It is the King who makes decisions. This has caused an abyss between the people and the commonweal. That s why we live a real tragedy in Morocco and that s why I opted, academically, for the republican system. Yet we should prepare the Moroccan people to recover their political awareness through reviewing the educational policy.
The Moroccans have been extremely alienated. The educational policy adopted for a long time has fashioned them to side with emotions and anger and not have a constructive political culture. We can awaken the people to this reality and show them their faith, their worldly affairs and their political and economic consequences. Islam is intricately linked with worldly affairs. When we say: There is no god but God , the no applies to the political injustice that befalls the Moroccans and is related, whether we like it or not, to the nature of the current political system the inherited monarchy. That s why I believe that this regime, from an academic viewpoint, is not feasible for a society that wants to build a significant future.
We should prepare the Moroccans to understand their political reality and work to reform it instead of accepting this system forever. We should avoid the insults of the westerners who allege that the Arabs and Muslims are not disposed for democracy and republicanism. Don t we have the right, like all the peoples of the world, to breathe a bit of freedom? We re not for violence against the monarchical institution or the Moroccan people. We should go gradually towards a real reform through a culture that may liberate us from the narrow-minded jurisprudence. I don t think we ll die if we stay without a king!
Journalist: How can you say that the republican system is the most feasible whereas this political term does not exist in the Islamic terminology that rather advocates the system of caliphate or commandership?
N.Y.: I believe that the stagnation (political, spiritual and social) that the Islamic world is living owes particularly to the stagnation of the system of government and mode of thinking as well. The system of government has domesticated Islamic jurisprudence into accepting totalitarian rule. It was a great tragedy when power connived with jurisprudence to keep the door of ijtihad [independent judgment] closed. Jurisprudence was tailor-made to serve autocratic rule.
I say that such stagnation lasted during fourteen centuries notwithstanding the existence of such brilliant thinkers as Ibn Rûshd (alias Averroes), Ibn Sîna (alias Avicenna, the thinker and theologist, not the physician) and others who had positive political propositions. Yet they were marginalized, suppressed or treated as renegades. That s why we re living in a time of jurisprudential vacancy since we lack a strong background to which we can adhere. That will not keep us, however, from drawing lessons from human experiences if they are close to our view of things.
It is reported that somebody informed the second Caliph of Islam, Omar bnu al-Khattab (God be pleased with him!), that the Christians of Najrân abstained from paying taxes because they didn t want such taxes to be called jizya [old tax given by non-Muslims living in the Islamic lands to benefit from Muslims protection]. He said: Let them call it what they wish . Actually, there are many factors that help make the thinking of Muslims turn in a vicious circle and remain imprisoned.
Journalist: Morocco has always been the country of jurists in the service of the power in place. Has anything new happened so that we may say the contrary?
N.Y.: (laughs) We have several books that elaborate new readings and interpretations of Islam susceptible to liberate us from the yoke of parochial jurisprudence that serves despotic power and wreaks havoc on us. We don t want to bow forever before tyrannical power. It is time a popular uprising took place just like the uprisings that have taken place since the time of Al-Hussayn [the Prophet s grandson].
We propose an uprising without violence. We re not rebels and we re not servile. We propose a balanced solution based on a long-term educational work. Our aim is not simply to change the existing ideology or propose a new ideology. We want to materialize our ideology into a real social reality. That can only be achieved through educating the individual. When we look at the Moroccan people, we find they re corrupted and stagnated by the Makhzen, and that s the product of a long history. We don t dwell at historical events to engage in daydreaming but rather to understand the current reality of the Muslim peoples.
Journalist: In the East or the West?
N.Y.: I make no difference between the East and the West because we have a common history. I mean the essence not the form because our Islamic world is diverse. It s just as if we said: what s the link between what happens in Iraq and what happens in Morocco? Or what happened in Andalusia or Egypt during the rule of the Fatimid dynasty and what happened in Morocco? The common denominator is the philosophy of power. I don t see why an intellectual would say that Morocco is isolated. Of course, there are Moroccan specificities.
Journalist (interrupting Nadia Yassine): All the successful societal experiences were based on specificity (cultural, linguistic, social, etc). How can you say that the keys of reform are the common denominators between Morocco and geographically very far countries with which the former shares only the factor of religion?
N.Y.: We believe in specificities that should be taken into account. Such specificities may benefit and enrich our diversity. I don t want to make comparison between Morocco and the West. The latter has also its specificities, positive and negative, that are absolutely different from our experience, past and present. Islam, whether we like it or not, has influenced the Arab world from its Far East to its Far West. Whoever fails to understand this identity will understand nothing in its history, specificity, and future. Anyway, each one is free to see things from the angle that befits him.
Journalist: In the region you call the Arab and Islamic world, there are two models: the Turkish and the Iranian. The first is successful because it is an Islamic system that has accepted secularism and the matters that has separated the State from Islam ever since Mostafa Kamal Ataturk to date. The second is radical and still faces various problems attached to the possible relation between Islam and the worldly affairs. Where do you find yourselves between these two models?
N.Y.: I m for a Moroccan model. I am against any form of subordination to any model. I don t say that Morocco should be like Turkey, Iran or any other country. When we have believed in democracy, this means we have believed in difference, specificity and different legitimacy. Unfortunately, the predominant thinking that has every opportunity to spread its religious culture is Wahhabism, which depicts Islam as a code of do s and don ts, totems and taboos. As for us, we see in Islam that spirit susceptible to reform our Arab and Islamic societies and give them the opportunity to come out of their underdevelopment (political, spiritual, and economic).
Journalist: Suppose you have assumed power in this Morocco full of contradictions. How would you cope with the different trends? In Morocco, there are nightclubs, bars and girls racing after the latest fashions in dress?
N.Y.: Thank you for this question. When you think of Islam, you think of Iran s model. Indeed, the danger of extremism exists in the Arab world. There are some people who say that women must go out with their head covered, that bars and nightclubs must be closed. Actually, the real challenge is not closing bars. The uprising should be flexible and tolerant, not like revolution that produces violence and bloodshed. We re absolutely against this idea. God save us from assuming power in a time when people are not ready for change. We have spent thirty years educating people so that they may be convinced of our principles. Otherwise, we ll be contradicting our ideology and reiterating the despotic model we re standing against.
We hope to reach a day when nightclubs and bars will remain open but empty. That s the challenge! That may be a dream but we hope that this will be the condition of the overwhelming majority. We also need a parliament that takes democratic decisions, strict though they may be, against hotbeds of corruption. Recently in America, for instance, one of the States took a unanimous decision against short pants. Nobody accused them of extremism. That s democracy. It s a matter of education. But I don t think that such minor issues should be brought before the parliament. They should be treated by educational institutions.
Journalist: Some say that the real problematic for JSA is the change from the idea of an association to the idea of a party?
N.Y.: I say that if power were the main objective of JSA, then the educational project we re advocating would not be useful to seize power. We would have then thought of making a real revolution by means of militias. But our option and our stake, from the beginning, is man s humanity. Political power is not our main objective. It s just an instrument that helps the essentially educational project that makes man return to what is essential, to his destiny with God exalted be He!― in the Hereafter.
The social and economic objectives should be achieved to help man know his God and worship Him in the best of ways. This does not mean that we should go to people living in shantytowns and tell them you should turn into suicide bombers if you want to go to Paradise and marry the beautiful heavenly girls there. Man is made of body and soul. Man s dignity has such conditions as social justice, proper education& and that s what makes us care for the political affairs. It s not fair when a small minority monopolizes the country s wealth and tells the overwhelming majority place your confidence in God! We don t want Islam to be the opium of the people but rather the liberator of the people.
Journalist: Some observers have noticed that JSA kept silent after the attacks of May 16, 2003 even though indiscriminate arrests in secret centres and torture were horrible, and the trials were unjust. Why?
N.Y.: I am not shunning the question but I don t know if JSA has issued communiqués regarding the issue or not. (She turns towards her husband, Abdullah, who said: Indeed, JSA issued communiqués condemning indiscriminate arrests, torture, and unfair trials.
Journalist: The King has recently launched the initiative of human development. How do you assess such initiative?
N.Y.: The Family Code is over!!! Now, time has come for human development initiatives!!!
Journalist: Do you think it is a matter of a temporary relief operation?
N.Y.: No doubt.
Journalist: Is it a matter of pulling the carpet of social works you ve been doing in poor circles from under your feet?
N.Y.: They pulled the carpet from under our feet through distributing harira [Moroccan soup] in Ramadan. They have started this operation from a long time. What s new is that they have officially spoken of that. I believe it s a shame, a real shame for an institution representing the central power to do a social work ―distribution of harira― normally performed by social associations. In a real democracy, in a sensible and sound country, such kind of work is called state emergency ambulance as if there were a gap in the health policy in a particular place that social associations hasten to fill. But that the State vies with social associations in distributing harira, it s a shame! What we need is a comprehensive economic policy.
Journalist: Is our political system as weak as you ironically depict?
N.Y.: In Morocco, we don t have a political and economic strategy that is clear. What we have is a Makhzen s policy based on makeshift solutions, economic, and political. That is, I take 80% of the country s wealth and the rest is left to makeshift solutions. We either must have a real strategy or nothing. I should mention that those makeshift solutions go concurrently with the embezzling of national funds into Swiss banks. Then, how can we imagine a reform of the country in such circumstances?
Journalist: You once compared the situation in Morocco to a rotten fruit that you expect to fall down alone. Is that falling close?
N.Y.: All indications say it is close (God willing).
Journalist: Some observers have noticed that you ve been travelling a lot abroad recently. Do you love foreign tourism so much?
N.Y.: [During three decades,] I was banned to have a passport. So it was time I compensated my confiscated freedom. Actually, I travel within a mere cultural framework. Contrary to what some think, Islam is for opening onto other peoples and other experiences. Our work is of missionary and educational nature. Islam is not terrorism and does not follow the pattern of Bin Laden, the Salafis and those who accuse Muslims of disbelief.
Journalist: Some have described you as being your father s heir. That, as you know, is a royal title. Doesn t it embarrass you?
N.Y.: I absolutely decline all these titles, which are coined by those fond of fabricating inappropriate appellations.
Journalist: You re a graduate of the Francophone Lycée Descartes [French cultural mission high school] and thus you re well versed in the western culture. Then, how do you find yourselves in a religious association? Is it only because your father is its leader?
N.Y.: What I can say is that I started my missionary work as a daughter of JSA s Guide-General, but then came my own conviction. It is true that when JSA started its work, my relationship with its Guide-General became so close since I wanted to know about his thinking, especially that my father is a man of dialog, communication, and participation. He played a great part in my decision to join JSA, but my conviction also played its part. Now, I m still in JSA and will work in it so long as I live even after my father dies, if I don t die before him, of course.