Morocco officially restarts compulsory military service

Moroccans aged between 19 and 25 will serve for one year in the armed forces, some 12 years after conscription was abolished. (AP Photo)
Updated 08 February 2019
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Morocco officially restarts compulsory military service

  • Draft dodgers face penalties ranging from one month to a year in prison, but exemptions will be made for those who do not meet physical standards and for university students
  • Moroccans are divided over the return of military service — some view it as gainful employment for youths left behind by development, others as a tool to blunt protest movements

RABAT: Morocco on Thursday officially restored compulsory military service, despite complaints from some young people in the North African country.
King Mohammed VI gave “instructions that 10,000 conscripts be called to military service in the current year, before bringing this figure to 15,000 in the next year,” a cabinet statement carried by the MAP agency said.
Moroccans aged between 19 and 25 look set to be called up for one year, according to the legislation that was unveiled in August, some 12 years after conscription was abolished.
The first conscripts will be enrolled in Autumn 2019, government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi said.
Draft dodgers face penalties ranging from one month to a year in prison, but exemptions will be made for those who do not meet physical standards and for university students.
Military service will be optional for women and dual nationals.
Conscripts will be paid between 1,050 dirhams (€96) and 2,000 dirhams (€185) net per month, according to Khalfi.
Moroccans are divided over the return of military service — some view it as gainful employment for youths left behind by development, others as a tool to blunt protest movements.
The palace said its goal is to improve “integration in professional and social life” for young people and boost their sense of citizenship.


Malaysian religious chiefs probe new book on shedding hijab

Updated 23 min 24 sec ago
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Malaysian religious chiefs probe new book on shedding hijab

KUALA LUMPUR: Religious authorities in Malaysia have launched an investigation into a new book about Muslim women who refuse to wear a hijab.
The official probe, which has caused outrage among women’s rights groups, was sparked after author Maryam Lee held a launch event last Saturday for her book “Unveiling Choice.”
Human rights activist Lee’s bookstore forum on de-hijabbing, held in Selangor, included a panel session during which three women spoke about their experiences relating to the removal of the headscarf.
Officials from the Malaysian state’s Islamic affairs department later obtained copies of the book, in which Lee tells of her personal journey to shed the hijab, and an inquiry has since been launched.
Malaysian religious affairs minister, Dr. Mujahid Yusof Rawa, said the matter was being taken “seriously” but he expected authorities in Selangor to carry out a “fair” investigation.
The incident has prompted a national public debate on the issue of control over the women’s attire.
Lee told Arab News that she decided to write about de-hijabbing in Malaysia because the topic has been marginalized. “Muslim-majority Malaysia does not believe that there are Muslim women silently suffering from various forms of gender-based violence and coercion. The hijab is one of them,” she said.
The 27-year-old writer said that wearing the headscarf can be a traumatizing experience for many Muslim women. “Society doesn’t believe this is happening, which is why there is a need for women to start speaking the truth,” added Lee.
Sixty percent of the multi-cultural Malaysian population are Muslims. However, the country’s Islamic affairs are governed by a centralized bureaucratic system under the scope of the Malaysian Islamic Department.
Lee said: “Whenever women in this country de-hijab, they get harassed constantly. They are seen as crazy, needing guidance and correction. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.”
Prior to the 1980s, it was a rare sight for Muslim women in Malaysia to don the hijab, although some opted for a loose shawl covering some of the head. However, as more Malaysian students opted to study in the Middle East they were inspired by revolution and today many Muslims in the country see wearing the hijab as an integral part of the religion.
“This is probably the first time that the government has taken action over women telling their stories of de-hijabbing,” said Lee. “We have not broken any laws, and if we had they would have known what to investigate us for.”
Rawa said: “The ministry has communicated with the Selangor State Islamic Department (JAIS), as this matter is beyond our jurisdiction because the forum was held in Selangor.”
Lee said that on Tuesday JAIS had visited the store which had hosted her forum to gain copies of the book and talk to shop representatives.
Opinion on social media was divided.
@ladymissazira said: “Whether you like it or not, there is need for discussion around tudung/hijab as long as there are familial, social and safety consequences toward not wearing it.”
@zhukl said: “I first wore hijab at age eight when I was forced to stand outside the classroom in my new school because I was wearing a pinafore uniform. I cried when I returned home and asked (for my parents) to get me a modest garment and hijab.”
@HilalAsyraf said: “I suggest halting any investigation and restriction, however Dr. Mujahid Rawa should participate in the forum as a panel and debate with them. They should no longer play the ‘victim card’ as if they are oppressed by patriarchy and the government.”