Here follows the full text of the Royal message, read by Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed Toufiq.
Praise be to God
May peace and blessings be upon all Prophets and Messengers
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to send this message to your Conference and to welcome you to Marrakesh, the city of interaction and cultural dialogue. I wish you a pleasant stay and pray that Almighty God grant you every success in your endeavors to bring the truth to light and to dispel unfounded opinions.
In normal circumstances, there would have been no need to address a theme such as the one chosen for this conference, "The rights of religious minorities in Islamic lands", given the unambiguous position and principles of Islam as well as its legacy in this regard. Nevertheless, there are events which have rendered the discussion of such a theme necessary in the current circumstances, and Muslims must show that these events have no basis or justification in Islam’s frame of reference. Muslims have to show that certain events which are happening under the guise of Islam are driven or prompted by considerations which have nothing to do with religion.
I am therefore pleased to see that this conference has been convened, bath to spotlight the true values advocated by religions and to make sure we uphold those values so that peace and solidarity may prevail for the benefit of humankind.
Furthermore, I have every reason to believe that this conference will be a success as it has brought together a fine selection of international figures and decision-makers representing various bodies and religious institutions, as well as influential thinkers and media experts.
I should like to take this opportunity to praise the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs for the organization and preparations for this Conference, which is being held under my high patronage. I am pleased with the measures taken by the Ministry to ensure this event's success. My thanks also go to the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which is presided over by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah and is supported by the State of the United Arab Emirates.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We, in the Kingdom of Morocco, see no reason for denying religious minorities any of their rights. We do not tolerate a violation of this kind being perpetrated in the name of Islam, nor do we tolerate any Muslim being involved in such an infringement. This firm belief is rooted in the proper understanding of religious principles, in our cultural heritage and in the history of this time-honored Kingdom; this explains the way Moroccan Muslims interact with each other and with followers of other religions.
The first reference source underpinning the principles to which we are committed is the Quran. In it, the Almighty says He has honored Man as a human being. Therefore, and as confirmation of this honor bestowed on Man, it was the Almighty's will to create people who were as different in their religious beliefs as they were in the color of their skin, the language they spoke and the ethnic group they belonged to. For this reason, Muslims are naturally inclined to accept diversity.
There are many references in the Quran to Ahl al-Kitab - the People of the Book. In fact, the Almighty instructed Muslims to believe in all Prophets and Messengers and to honor and respect them. He also said that the People of the Book were not to be provoked, and that Muslims were to argue with them only in ways that are best and most gracious. The Almighty also ordered that the People of the Book were to be treated fairly, in all circumstances, and that hatred, which can influence the way one behaves towards them, was to be renounced. In this regard, Islam prescribed jihad only for self-defense, or to protect sanctities, when necessary. In no way is jihad authorized to compel people to embrace Islam.
The second reference source on which our principles are based is the Sunna of my revered ancestor, Prophet Muhammad - may peace be upon Him. His practical teachings came to explain the Quran. Through them, He recommended that Jews and Christians were to be treated well, and that no monk, rabbi or person found praying in a place of worship could be killed in a time of war. He made transactions with the Jews, laid the foundations for treaties and for the protection of churches, decreed that people believing in other faiths were not to be harassed and authorized marriage with women who were from the People of the Book. The many facets of Islam's peaceful coexistence with believers in other religions have had beneficial effects in all spheres, including business, trade, industry and the exchange of ideas. Therefore, as far as Islam is concerned, peace and security are the norm for interaction between faiths.
The Caliphs who came after Prophet Muhammad - may peace be upon Him - remained committed to the same approach. Even with regard to the Jizya tax - whose amount was, most of the time, less than the zekat imposed on Muslims - it should be pointed out that the second Caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab, exempted the needy from paying it, and even included non-Muslim needy people among its recipients. This Caliph also gave Jews and Christians guarantees regarding the protection of their places of worship and their money, assuring them that no Jew or Christian would be coerced into giving up his religion, and this in compliance with the words of the Almighty: "Let there be no compulsion in religion": this Caliph is famous for asking: "Since when do you enslave people whereas they were born free?".
From these two sources - the Quran and the Sunnah - Muslims developed the Sharia system, whose provisions determine the way Muslims deal with believers in other faiths. It is on the basis of these provisions that religious minorities in Islamic lands have widely enjoyed their rights and the protection of their lives and their honor. In particular, they have enjoyed the right to practice their religion, along with the rites and rituals it involves, and to comply with the requirements of their faith. These rights and entitlements are the result of Islam's equal treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to the preservation of sanctities, lives and property.
This is true not only with regard to rights, but also to feelings and empathy shown through proper behavior towards the People of the Book in the event of illness, death and compassion for those in need, by means of either charity or endowment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Morocco has always been an outstanding model of cultural coexistence and interaction between Islam and other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity. One of the glorious pages in this history was the emergence of the Moroccan-Andalusian civilization, which brought together various communities and led to the development of trade, industry and the arts, as well as to fruitful exchange in the areas of knowledge, wisdom, philosophy and science.
This was especially the case when large numbers of Muslims moved from Andalusia to Morocco in particularly difficult conditions. With them, there were also Jews, who joined a Jewish community, which had existed in the country since the pre-Islamic era. The Jewish community in Morocco was never treated by Muslims as a minority. Its members were involved in all fields of activity and were present at all levels of society. They contributed to shaping society, were entrusted with public sector jobs and missions and were people of great culture. Had it not been for the serenity they enjoyed and the rights they had, they would never have been able to earn the reputation they still have today in the areas of religious studies and outstanding research on the Jewish heritage worldwide.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Commander of the Faithful and defender of the faith, I am committed to protecting the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The religious rights of Muslims and non-Muslims are protected in accordance with the aforementioned immutable principles, and their rights as citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution; there is no difference or distinction as far as the ultimate goals are concerned. In doing so, I am following in the footsteps of my glorious ancestors. My great grandfather Moulay El Hassan, for instance, donated the land in Tangier on winch the Anglican Church was built, and which still stands there to this day. My grandfather, His Late Majesty King Mohammed V, protected Moroccan Jews against the tyranny of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. My father, His Late Majesty King Hassan II, received Pope John Paul II, on what was his first visit to a Muslim country.
I am following the same approach in terms of enabling Christians of all denominations, who reside legally in Morocco, to perform their religious rites, according to the church to which they belong. Moroccan Jews enjoy the same constitutional rights as their fellow Muslim citizens. They join political parties, participate in elections, set up associations and play a key role in the economy. They are represented in my circle of advisors as well as in the diplomatic field. Moroccan Jews, even second generation children of Jews who chose to migrate elsewhere in the world, have close bonds with the rest of society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Morocco has played a leading role in interfaith dialogue. Indeed, shortly after the country's independence in 1956, Morocco organized meetings, in the summer, in the Benedictine Monastery of Toumliline, situated in the mountains in the Fes region. They were attended by renowned Christian and Muslim intellectuals, cultural figures and scholars like Louis Massignon. These are some of the facets of my country's legacy in this respect which I am sure, most of you already know. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that you should feel a need to meet here, in this land which has long been committed to the time-honored traditions of tolerance and openness. In order to adopt, by the grace of the Almighty, a strong declaration on the theme of your conference as well as on other equally important issues for the future.
Our management of the religious domain in Morocco focuses on preventing any distorted interpretation of the revealed texts, particularly what relates to jihad- a question on which our Ulema issued an unequivocal statement a few weeks ago.
The more I ponder the various crises threatening humanity, the more firmly I believe that interfaith cooperation is necessary, inevitable and urgent. This cooperation between believers for the development of a common fundamental platform is not to be restricted to tolerance and respect only; it should also involve a commitment to the rights and freedoms that should be enshrined in - and enforced by - each country's legislation. It is not enough to lay down laws and codes of conduct. We need to adopt a civilized code of behavior that bans all forms of coercion, fanaticism and arrogance.
The world we live in today needs religious values because they embody the virtues we should uphold before the Creator. We also need them because they consolidate our propensity for tolerance, love and cooperation in promoting righteousness and piety. We need common values not just to nurture tolerance, but also to derive from them the energy and fortitude that will enable Man to take a long hard look at himself; we need them because they can help us to rally together in order to enjoy a life free from war, greed, extremism and hatred - a life in which crises and human suffering can be reduced as a prelude to the elimination of the risk of religious conflict.
I wish your conference every success. I believe what people are expecting you to say, through your final declaration, is that religion must not be manipulated to justify any infringement or denial of the rights of religious minorities in Islamic countries.
Wassalamu alaikum warahmalu lah wabarakatuh