Moroccan Muslim preachers caught having sex, arrested

Scandal comes during election season, couple accused of adultery

23 August, 13:54

    RABAT - Two vice presidents of Morocco's Islamic Movement for Unity and Reform (MUR), a group closely tied to Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's Justice and Development Party, have set off a scandal in the midst of election season after they were arrested for adultery when police found them having sex in a car near a beach not far from Casablanca, Al Ahdath Al Maghribia reported.

    Moulay Omar Benhammad, 63, is a married father of seven children and a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Rabat; Fatima Nejjar, 62, is a widow with six children and a well-known Muslim preacher who posts educational videos on Youtube.

    Police detained the couple for 24 hours and released them after Benhammad's wife decided not to press charges against her husband for adultery.

    Both had been vocal in their teachings of strict practices: Benhammad had issued a "fatwa" against "exchanging words of love on Facebook", and Nejjar had told her female students not to sit in the male students' places and not to laugh in front of them, because these were "the start of fornication".

    It then emerged in the media that Benhammad had justified his behavior with an explanation that is looked upon unfavorably in the Muslim world, by referring to his relationship with Nejjar as a "customary marriage", meaning one that is neither religious nor civil - a widespread practice in Africa linked to ancestral rituals, but outside of all laws regulating unions between men and women.

    The "MUR lovers", as the media are calling them, are scheduled to go to trial on September 1.

    Meanwhile, MUR has suspended both of them and issued a statement "completely refusing customary marriage" while at the same time recognising "their contributions in education and preaching". 

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