Leader of Morocco Islamist movement dies

A picture taken on 15 December 1995 shows Abdessalam Yassine, founder of Morocco's Islamist movement Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity), giving a speech to supporters in a mosque in Sale near Rabat. (Photo: AFP - Abdelhak Senna)

Published Thursday, December 13, 2012

The founder of Morocco's most powerful religious opposition movement and one of the few men to challenge the monarchy's quasi-religious status died Thursday at 84, according to an online statement by his group.

Abdessalam Yassine, founder of the Adl wal Ihsan movement (Justice and Charity), "has returned to God," the organization's guiding council said on its website. It added that the funeral will be held following Friday prayers at the capital Rabat's main mosque – a major honor.

"I am still in shock; he passed away this morning," said a tearful Nadia Yassine, his daughter, who also holds a leadership role in the movement he founded in the 1980s.

There is no exact count of the size of Adl wal Ihsan, but it is often estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, drawing its strength from charity work and present all over the country.

The movement advocates the creation of an Islamist state while rejecting violence to achieve it. It is officially banned and cannot participate in politics. Though it is tolerated, its members are often arrested.

As founder of Morocco's most popular Islamist movement, Yassine had running problems with the authorities, and was imprisoned twice under the late king Hassan II.

He was under house arrest for decades before he was released by the King Mohammed VI in 2000. He refused to recognize the king's religious title of commander of the faithful, a key difference with the moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development, which won last year's elections and heads the ruling coalition.

For a while Adl wal Ihsan joined the pro-democracy February 20 movement that emerged in 2011, adding its manpower to the demonstrations that rocked the country. With the election victory of a legal Islamist party in November, however, the group took a much lower profile.

(AP, Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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