Just back from Morocco, where I had the pleasure to meet various young and upcoming bloggers from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Conversations were inspiring and informative. Exploring the blogosphere in the Maghreb, Morocco and Algeria seem to be relatively freer than Tunisia subject to a stifling environment. Whereas in Morocco, one knows the red lines and taboo subjects outside the limits of freedom of expression, Tunisia's guidelines are arbitrary. Recently, fellow blogger Lina Ben Mhenni's blog (Tunisian Girl بنية تونسية) and facebook page were censored by "Ammar," name 'affectionately' given by Tunisian bloggers and activists to state Internet censorship in Tunisia. The authorities' actions are an attempt to silence Lina's writing on the plight of political prisoners and the dwindling space for freedom of expression in Tunisia.
Back to Morocco, religion has been integral to regime hegemony. The monarch is considered the protector of the faith, a fact codified in the Moroccan constitution and monitored by the state through the ministry of religious affairs, which supervises the mosques, religious institutions, and appoint imams. The monarchical interpretation of Islam dominates Morocco’s political discourse and religious legitimacy is the basis of the power of the monarch. This claim is buttressed by the monarch’s claim of ancestral descent from the prophet’s family, which makes him “God’s shadow on earth.” This quasi-holy stature is consecrated in the bay’a (allegiance), which Moroccan monarchs command from their subjects every year and is done following an old Islamic tradition of political succession. The centrality of the monarchy in the religious realm has led to the monarch's dominance of religious discourse, proving crucial in the monarch's confrontation with Islamists.