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Moroccan Islamists quit Arab Spring opposition

MYT 8:30:00 AM

RABAT (Reuters) - An Islamist group seen as the main opposing force to Morocco's monarchy has suspended its involvement in a movement inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, citing the need for a new deal with secularist activists to bolster its ideology.

Al-Adl wal Ihsane's move comes at a tense time for the February 20 Movement whose regular protests, aimed at stripping the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty of its sweeping powers, have thinned considerably in recent weeks.

On Monday, it suspended its youth wing's involvement in the February 20 Movement, said Fathallah Arsalane, a member of al-Adl wal Ihsane's (Justice and Spirituality) Guidance Council.

"We have suffered marginalisation at the hands of some parties in February 20 and this involved the ceiling of political demands, a ban on making public statements and the use of slogans that reflect our group's ideology," Arsalane told Reuters.

"We are stopping our action within the February 20 Movement but we can continue outside it ... We want a real partnership with everyone, including secularists and left-wing activists."

Al-Adl is seen as Morocco's biggest and best-organised Islamist group. It is active mostly in universities and in helping the poor, but it is banned from politics due mostly to what is seen as its hostile rhetoric towards the monarchy.

"Why do we have to tie ourselves to the extent of saying 'No, we need to mention that we want a constitutional monarchy?'. For some it may sound too bold a demand, others may think it's too shy," he said.

"Why did they have to prohibit slogans like "Allah is the Greatest" and others against prejudice. In doing so, you marginalise a large fraction of Moroccans."

The February 20 Movement, named after the date of its first protests, is a leaderless, motley group of activists mostly from al-Adl, small secularist left-wing parties, and Salafis.

Morocco has not had a revolution of the kind seen elsewhere in north Africa. King Mohammed is still firmly in charge after he responded with limited reform.

He offered to trim his powers under constitutional reform that won overwhelming support in a July 1 referendum. He later brought forward parliamentary polls by almost a year which handed moderate Islamists in Justice and Development Party (PJD) their first chance to lead a government.

Unlike al-Adl, PJD is firmly attached to the monarchy.

"The Moroccan regime has circumvented pressures by the February 20 Movement," Arsalane said. "February 20 has accomplished its mission: It has restored confidence in the possibility of change and the culture of protests."

The main principles for any partnership, he said, should be "fighting despotism and corruption, a democratic constitution that gives power to the people and ensuring equal opportunities on political participation by lifting all restraints."

After winning the election, PJD have invited al-Adl to enter Moroccan politics and push for change under the country's institutions. Arsalane dismissed the existence of any link between PJD's call and al-Adl's withdrawal from February 20.

"Many say that the only way to politics in Morocco is under the institutions," Arsalane said. "This is pure fallacy because these institutions have no legitimacy whatsoever."

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