A forum devoted to current political, economic trends, and news of the Maghreb region.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Royal Dahir in Morocco

The Moroccan French weekly Tel Quel, recently censured by the state for its attempt to publish a public opinion survey on king Mohammed VI, devoted its centerfold to an article on the Dahir. A dahir (royal decree) is a royal discretionary act in regulatory, administrative and legislative domains, and one of the manifestations of the unbridled institutional powers of the Moroccan sovereign. During the process of modern state formation, the constitution replaced the old system of consultation with a new representative body. However, the legislative body is a rubber stamp institution not characterized by democratic practices such as those present in western style polities. The dahir, on the other hand, persisted as one of the main features of Morocco's political system.

The use of dahir in Morocco is different than the discretionary powers that extra-presidential systems possess in Latin America. The dahir emanates from the monarch’s religious authority and is treated by the legislature and the cabinet as a sacred text. In keeping with Islamic traditions, the parliament and the local assemblies are consultative branches of the royal power.

This was made apparent after Hassan II’s accession to power, when he addressed the parliament in 1963: “I shall bestow upon you part of the powers that have been with the ruling family for twelve centuries…I have made the Constitution by my very hands, and it has not given the deputies any powers, only obligations.” This authoritarian feature is characterized by the absolute power of the monarch, who can at his will, dissolve the parliament. It is noteworthy here that the monarchy has never considered its perennial status as authoritarian. On the contrary, it has maintained its Islamic-democratic nature, since any constitutional pronouncements are subject to plebiscitary powers of the jam’a (community). However, in the absence of free competitive elections, strong legislature and political participation, the consultative process is far from its Islamic ideal and has since the independence been used to legitimize royal absolutism.

Consultation is also buttressed through royal discretionary power of dahir, which constitutes the single most important source of legislation in Morocco. All royal decisions are taken under the guise of dahir. These are above the political system and all constitutional texts. In fact, the constitution itself was promulgated according to the 1963 dahir, which effectively enabled the king to exercise his dominance over all political aspects of the Moroccan system.

Dahirs have the force and appearance of laws, always begin with a religious greeting and are signed under the title of commander of the faithful. This is done to invoke the religious stature of royal decrees, which are not subject to annulment or appeal. Dahirs were codified into an “official bulletin” in the years after 1969 with the publication of the finance law. The continuity of this institutional decision-making practice is invoked in all royal appointments and is given the formal status similar to that of ancient sharifian letters and correspondence. The dahir is a sacred act of sovereignty, immune to all judicial processes and inviolable.


Becca said...

This post brought to mind Wiktorowicz's article "State Power and the Regulation of Islam"in which he claims: "Muslim politics involve attempts to monopolize 'sacred authority' - the right to interpret Islam and religious symbols on behalf of the community."

It seems that the monarchy has a pretty solid grip on said authority, but I'm not too familiar with Moroccan politics. How common and criticism of the monarchy's claim to sacred authority? Would you say the Moroccan government has been successful in monopolizing sacred authority, or does it face competing claims from other groups?

Becca said...

Wow I didn't word that very well. Put simply: Is the monarchy's religious authority accepted as legitimate or not so much?

Mohamed Daadaoui said...

the monarchcial regime has always had a monopoly over the territory of the sacred, which has been cultivated through state rituals of power such as: Bay'a, prohetic lineage, the title of the commander of the faithful and Baraka (claim that Moroccan monarchs are endowed with a divine blessing). Various research has suggested the high degree of appeal these symbols and rituals garner in Moroccan society, especially in the rural and less educated segments of the country. In the past there were many groups, mainly religions, that sought to challenge the monarchy's monopoly over the religious discourse to no avail.

Becca said...

Here I go again...

In Egypt, the state owns and controls 71% of mosques, and all Jordanian mosques are controlled by the government. Both countries have regulations for the selection and monitoring of imams, and the Egyptian government supplies Friday sermons. Imams who deviate from the official line face penalties and investigation by the state.

Is the situation similar in Morocco? What is the proportion of private vs. state-owned mosques, and how much control does the state exert over the khutba?

Mohamed Daadaoui said...

Morocco exerts the same authority over mosques and Friday khutbas as other Arab Muslim countries that have effectively bureaucratized religion. All mosques have to seek approval from the state, even those built by private funds. Their imams are also appointed by state religious council (called scientific councils), and their Khutbas are pre-written.