May 26, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10631

Moroccan Clerics And Conservative YouTubers Unite In Condemning Women's Rights Campaign Promoting Gender Equality Legislation

May 26, 2023
North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 10631

On May 2, 2023, a group of women's associations in Casablanca, Morocco, launched a national campaign named "It's Time to Change the Law" under the hashtag #BghathaLwa9t advocating for new legislation guaranteeing gender equality. According to a video report[1] published by the YouTube channel of the Moroccan website, this campaign is supported by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

In response, a group of Islamic clerics and conservative individuals and social media influencers have actively opposed and voiced their disagreement with the campaign. Their approach involves rejecting, condemning, and attempting to demonize the objectives of the campaign, its funding and its organizers. This report highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the campaign, presenting the arguments and concerns expressed by each side involved.

The aforementioned report cited Nouzha Skalli, the Chair of the Oversight and Leadership Committee for this group working toward legislation ensuring equality, saying that this campaign is based on a report resulting from collaborative work by concerned associations dedicated to achieving justice and gender equality. Skalli also mentioned that the project has produced a series of recommendations concerning various Moroccan laws that directly and indirectly impact gender equality. These recommendations, she noted, have been formulated in line with the principles of the constitution and international agreements ratified by Morocco. She further added that the report primarily focused on specific articles within the Family Code and criminal law, urging for their review or amendment to establish a society built on human dignity for everyone, both women and men.

Le report further cited Sonia Terab, the producer and director of the campaign, saying that the campaign addresses a range of important societal issues, such as child marriage, custody, violence, abortion, and others. She added that the purpose of presenting this report is to serve as a mechanism for future collaboration among various associations, institutions, parliamentary bodies, and official entities. She added that the purpose of presenting this report is to serve as a mechanism for future collaboration among various associations, institutions, parliamentary bodies, and official entities.

Terab concluded that the inclusion of eight prominent TV stars and well-known influencers in social media, to participate in this advocacy campaign through impactful testimonies about women's experiences, aims to leverage their influence to raise awareness about the silent suffering endured by numerous victims.

On May 13, 2023, Hespress, a Moroccan Arabic-language news website, reported that Narjis Benaazou, the president of the "Outlaws" coalition, noted that the recorded testimonies by the participating actresses in the campaign have garnered millions of views, an achievement she described as "extraordinary" and aligns to some extent with the campaign's primary goal of reaching a larger audience of Moroccan men and women. Furthermore, Benaazou emphasized that the "campaign's idea is remarkably simple, aiming to bridge the gap between civil society's significant work and the general public's limited access to it. It strives to bring Moroccan citizens closer to the forefront and shed light on the contradictions and injustices prevalent in family law and criminal law."[2]

In addition to the aforementioned campaign, various women's rights organizations have emphasized the significance of revising the Family Code in Morocco as a crucial step toward empowering women and promoting their participation in diverse domains. These organizations recognize the Family Code's substantial impact on women's lives and advocate for comprehensive reforms that address discriminatory practices and provide equal rights and opportunities for women.

According to a report published on,[3] a women-owned pro-women's rights website, on May 17, 2023, the Women's Coordination for Comprehensive and Deep Change of the Family Code held a study day on May 13, 2023, that brought together women's and human rights associations from various cities. In the event took place both in-person at the Lawyers' Club in Rabat and virtually via the Zoom application, the participants emphasized the following points:

  • The need for comprehensive and profound changes to the Family Code: Participants recognized that transforming the Family Code is a fundamental requirement for democratizing society and empowering women in various domains. It is essential to ensure their active participation in the development processes. The sociocultural transformations that Morocco has witnessed and their impact on women's roles within families and society necessitate liberating women from all constraints that restrict their agency and undermine their dignity. This liberation requires addressing discriminatory provisions within the Family Code.

The report further cited the Women's Coordination for Comprehensive and Deep Change of the Family Code reiterating its essential demands, which include:

  • Demanding a modern Family Code in its philosophy, language, and provisions, based on a human rights framework, with equality and nondiscrimination as guiding principles across all its aspects.

  • The necessity to align the Family Law with the requirements of the constitution and the [1979 United Nations] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as Morocco's relevant international obligations regarding women's human rights. This alignment aims to achieve equality, respond to women's aspirations, and contribute to the construction of a democratic, just, and egalitarian society.

  • The state's responsibility to ensure maximum protection, support, and assistance to family members, as well as its role in establishing effective mechanisms that guarantee equal access to justice between genders and establish efficient means for mediation and resolving family disputes.

In response, a group of Moroccan Islamists and conservative YouTubers expressed their opposition to the campaign, raising concerns about its funding, leadership, and goals. On May 7, 2023, Moroccan cleric Muhammad Abu Hatem expressed his strong reservations about the campaign in a video titled "The Response to the Moroccan Women Campaign It is Time To Change the Law" shared on his Facebook page. He contended that the underlying motive behind the campaign's opposition to underage marriages was to undermine the fundamental institution of marriage itself. Abu Hatem reasoned that if the campaign's concerns were genuinely centered on protecting minors, they would have also raised objections to underage fornication, highlighting what he perceived as a selective focus on marriage alone.

Abu Hatem questioned the implications of the "It's Time To Change The Law" campaign and he rhetorically asked whether the campaign's objective was to advocate for the acceptance of fornication and to condone moral corruption. He emphasized the urgency of returning to the teachings of Islam and implementing divine laws while rejecting what he described as the "garbage" of imported man-made ideologies.

Abu Hatem criticized the campaign's objective of ending male guardianship authority over women, expressing deep alarm at the potential consequences. He condemned the notion that fathers and brothers would no longer hold authority over their daughters and sisters, saying: "This would be disastrous and will have dangerous implications."[4]

Another prominent Moroccan cleric, Sheikh Abdellah Nhari, publicly expressed his disapproval of the campaign through a YouTube video uploaded on May 12, 2023. In the video, he accused the campaign's proponents of deliberately targeting "the last stronghold of the ummah," referring to the Islamic family laws. Nhari’s YouTube channel has over 8,000 videos and over 1.42 million subscribers.

Additionally, Nhari asserted that the true objective of the United Nations, as reflected in the campaign's slogan, is to eliminate the section of the law that deems certain sexual relations as criminal offenses. He criticized this aspect, referring to it as the promotion of "so-called consensual sexual relations."[5]

Moreover, Nhari raised further doubts about the true intentions of the campaign organizers. He questioned whether they genuinely cared about women's rights and the reformation of criminal laws. According to him, if their concerns were genuine, they would have prioritized addressing the challenges faced by women in rural areas. He suggested that instead of solely focusing on legal aspects, they should have sought to alleviate the marginalized conditions faced by these women. Nhari proposed that efforts should have been made to construct bridges and hospitals in remote areas, ensuring that pregnant women no longer had to endure arduous journeys on donkeys for several kilometers just to give birth to their babies.

Nhari concluded by making a fervent appeal to the Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars in Morocco, which serves as a source of religious guidance, urging them to intervene and take a stance against the campaign organizers. He emphasized the importance of presenting well-reasoned arguments backed by evidence, referring to the constitution and relevant legal provisions. He called upon the council to engage in a logical discourse, challenging the motives and objectives of the campaign in question.

Cleric Al-Hassan Al-Mous Aboulina devoted his Friday sermon to cautioning his audience about the campaign. On May 12, 2023, he emphasized the need for Muslims to counter such "abnormal" campaigns and actively participate in safeguarding the shari'a of Allah by joining the ranks of those who defend it.

He went on to urge his audience to protect the concept of family and firmly reject the hybrid definition of family embraced by the West. He specifically mentioned families "comprising of two men or two women" or families without a marriage certificate, adamantly stating, "No to that." According to him, the true definition of family aligns with what Allah has ordained, as well as the values and principles deeply ingrained in their community, which "are firmly rooted in Islam."[6]

On May 13, 2023,, a Moroccan website, released a video on its YouTube channel featuring an interview with two Moroccan clerics expressing their dissent toward the campaign while raising doubts about its funding, intentions, and objectives.

During the discussion, cleric Yasim El-Amri highlighted the use of letter and number combinations in translating the campaign slogan "BghathaLwa9t," suggesting that this was done to appeal to the younger generation. El-Amri further contended that the laws advocated by the campaign would not be widely accepted by society, asserting that these demands were limited to a small segment of the population aiming to undermine religion, the natural order, and the country's security and stability.

Expanding on the U.N.'s funding of the campaign, El-Amri pointed out to the apparent contradiction between an organization like the United Nations, which claims to be dedicated to promoting peace and security worldwide, and its support for a coalition named "Outlaws" that support the campaign. By referring to the coalition as "Outlaws," El-Amri underscored his belief that the U.N.'s endorsement of a group with such a label contradicts its supposed mission and values.

Conservative influencers and YouTubers have launched a counter-campaign using the hashtag #hachnoubghat_lwa9t meaning "What is it Time for" to dismiss the objectives of the campaign and provide their own version of issues whose time has come to be addressed and resolved.

On May 14, 2023, conservative YouTuber Hicham Bouanani published a video on his YouTube channel using the hashtag in Arabic and English as a title in which he accused the campaign organizers of "waging an intense war against Islam and the fundamentals of the Ummah."[7] He then rejected the campaign slogan saying: "No, at all, time has not come to consensual sexual relationships." He then announced that physicians, professors, clerics, scholars, lawyers and media personalities will join the counter-campaign under the hashtag #hachnoubghat_lwa9t.

Youssef Naciri is one of many conservative YouTubers who have joined the counter-campaign. On May 19, 2023, he shared[8] a video in which he mocked the campaign's demands including gender equality and the ending of criminalization of consensual sexual relationships and asked those who advocate for the latter if they allow their mothers to be part of a consensual sexual relationship. Naciri then accused the campaign organizers of disrespecting Islam and the shari'a of Allah. Presenting his own list of pressing issues whose time has come, Naciri listed better schools, well-equipped hospitals, transparent government, opening the borders between Morocco and Algeria, and restoring the Western Sahara as priorities.

In a YouTube video[9] released on May 17, 2023, Moroccan conservative YouTuber Lakhrissi Ilyass minimized the significance of a story shared by one of the actresses associated with the campaign. The actress recounted an incident where a woman had been sexually assaulted by a man she invited to her home, and she remained silent due to the fear of legal repercussions. The actress argued that laws criminalizing consensual sexual relationships do not deter individuals from engaging in such acts but rather put women at risk by hindering their ability to report violations committed against them.

However, Ilyass dismissed the actress's viewpoint, suggesting that the underlying motive behind the call to end the criminalization of consensual sexual relationships was to empower women to unjustly imprison men they no longer liked.


[1]—MA, May 3, 2023.

[2]خارجات-عن-القانون-تثمن-بغاتها-الوقت-1169416.html, May 13, 2023.  

[3], May 17, 2023.

[4], May 7, 2023.

[5], May 12, 2023.

[6], May 12, 2023.

[7], May 14, 2023.

[8], May 19, 2023.

[9], May 17, 2023.

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