The well-known Moroccan activist Abdullah Zaazaa was arrested last night in his Casablanca neighborhood of Bouchentou, for buying alcohol during Ramadan. Alcohol sales in Morocco resumed legally today, after being banned during the month of Ramadan and the Eid. However, Mr. Zaazaa and other men in his neighborhood were arrested during a raid on a house where alcohol was being sold.
I reported earlier this month on the movement in Morocco (and Algeria, where several people were arrested this month, in one case while eating during the day inside a closed restaurant, and where the human rights groups SOS Algeria issued a communiqué defending the right not to fast) to decriminalize breaking the fast in public. Mr. Zaazaa had been supportive of that effort.
Mr. Zaazaa has been a left-wing activist since the 1970s. He spent 14 years in jail under Hassan II. Today, he heads a community association that helps educate the residents of the two Casablanca neighborhoods in which it is based on their human, civic and political rights, and to mobilize around communal projects and demands.
As Mr. Zaazaa's wife told me over the phone tonight, it is hardly unusual for alcohol to be available in their neighborhood during the Eid. This raid and these arrests may be part of an increasingly aggressive enforcement of public religiosity -- and may be partly catalyzed by the very demands for greater individual freedom in choosing whether to observe Ramadan.