Following are excerpts from an interview with Moroccan Amazigh activist Ahmad Assid, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on April 4, 2012.
Interviewer : You said that secularism has become necessary in Morocco. Why now?
Ahmad Assid : It is necessary now more than ever because of the rise of the Islamists in political life, after the fall of some of the regimes, during the popular mobilization witnessed in Morocco, in North Africa, and in the Middle East.
The rise of the Islamists made many people believe that it was a return to the religious state and to the shari'a as a comprehensive system. I consider this a danger to democracy.
Therefore, secularism must rise now as a solution for the future.
Interviewer : But Islam views religion and state as intertwined. These Islamists did not invent anything new.
Ahmad Assid : This is one interpretation, which I do not accept. We consider Islam to be a religion, whereas [even] in Islam, states were rational, human endeavors, which borrowed some mechanisms from the Byzantines, the Persians, and others. A state is a worldly matter, and it should remain a worldly, rational mechanism.
We have never been opposed to the religion of Islam. Our fathers and forefathers were, and still are, Muslims. The overwhelming majority of Moroccans are Muslims. However, we distinguish between the Islam of the people and that of the Islamists. The Islamists are not merely Muslims - they are Muslims who use religion to promote their political agenda.
We reject this, because it hinders our progress towards building a democracy and a civil state, in which all citizens are equal, regardless of religion, race, sex, or color.
The Salafis are not in favor of freedom of belief.
Interviewer : [Sheik Al-Fizazi] said he was.
Ahmad Assid : But he also says that there is a punishment for apostasy in Islam, which requires us to chop off the head of any Muslim who converts to another religion. This is no freedom. Freedom of belief allows a person to choose whatever religion he wants, regardless of whether he is converting to Islam or from Islam.