There are many reasons why some Arab people, including Tunisians, Libyans, and Egyptians, took en masse to the street and didn’t return home till they had toppled those who ruled them with an iron hand for decades. One reason was that they were deprived of this basic right: freedom of expression.
In brief, freedom of expression means one has the full right to express one’s views on all topics without exception. For instance, one is free to say one prefers a president over a king or vice versa. Also, one is free to be for or against individual rights, including those regarding sexual freedom.
True supporters of freedom of expression respect other people’s views and attitudes regardless of whether they agree with them or not. They also have the full right to respond to those views, particularly when they don’t agree with them. Of course, their responses shouldn’t be based on insults and death threats. On the contrary, they should be based on ideas and facts.
Many Arab people, however, have contradicted themselves when they decided to join the pro-change protests around their country or at least haven’t grasped yet what freedom of speech really means. They are theoretically for the right of everyone to express his mind, but practically against that right.
I was in doubt of whether Moroccans were aware of the meaning of the slogans they chanted immediately after the Arab Spring knocked their doors, but the responses to Mokhtar Laghzioui’s view on sexual freedom made me quite sure of the fact that Moroccans still haven’t understood some of the slogans they cheered on during their pro-change demonstrations. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have responded with insults and death threats to those whose views are totally different from theirs. Mokhtar Laghzioui is only one example in point.
When Mokhtar Laghzioui, editor-in-chief of the Arabic newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghribia, was asked live on air if he would allow his mother, sister or daughter to have sex outside marriage, his response was to say that they were free to do whatever they wanted, including having sex out of wedlock.
Mokhtar Laghzioui’s response on that new-founded pan-Arabist news channel Al Mayadeen was a step too far for a large section of Moroccans, many of whom are supporters of the pro-change February 20 movement. The controversial Imam, Abdellah Nhari, is an example in point.
He soon posted a video on YouTube suggesting, among other things, that Mokhtar Laghzioui "must be killed" in reaction to his appearance on the news channel Al Mayadeen, where he defended individual rights for Moroccan people, especially their right to have sex outside of marriage.
Many Facebook pages were created in support of Abdellah Nhari soon after the latter was called for investigation by Moroccan police on the grounds that his speech is "likely to lead to crime, incitement of violence through preaching."
I was really shocked to learn that Abdellah Nhari called for the death of Mokhtar Laghzioui simply because he had the courage to be in favour of sexual freedom in Morocco. His reaction to Mokhtar Laghzioui’s stand on sexual freedom reminded me of how the ousted Arab dictators, including Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, used to silence their opponents and pro-democracy activists.
I am quite sure that one of the reasons why Mokhtar Laghzioui was encouraged to share his views on a controversial topic in the North African monarchy was that he was under the understandable illusion that Moroccans, after the outbreak of the Arab Spring, are free to say and write whatever they want.
Mokhtar Laghzioui, needless to say, is not the only Moroccan to wrongly believe that the Arab Spring had emboldened Moroccans to broach taboo subjects. Think, for instance, of Rachid Nini, Abdessamad El Hidour, and Mouad Belghouat.