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Week Ending March 5, 2004
March 8, 2004 8:48AM EST




For the past several days I have been in Morocco with a fact finding delegation representing evangelical groups from the United States. Our mission was to determine if Morocco was a moderating, modernizing Islamic society. As part of that mission we have met with officials at all levels of government including Prime Minister Driss Jettow and the presidents of both the Upper House and Lower House of Parliament. There is no doubt that there is an atmosphere of change in Morocco, particularly since the May, 2003 hotel bombings in Casablanca which Moroccan officials refer to as their 9-11. The bombings have accelerated the movement by some Moroccan leaders to promote a more secular societal model. (See photos)

The leaders, educators, middle and upper classes of Morocco feel a great kinship to Europe and do not want to be overtaken by the Saudi model of Islam that would relegate them to a 7th century existence. As a result, under the leadership of youthful King Mohammed VI, a new family law code giving women equal rights was passed in October, 2003. The law gave women the right to equal property and the right to divorce for the first time. The law also made polygamy virtually impossible. This is the most sweeping change in women's rights ever in an Islamic nation. There is no other Islamic society where women are treated under the law in equal terms with men. The capital city of Rabat has more the atmosphere of Richmond or Charlotte than Kuwait City or Riyadh. (Official Moroccan site on women's rights - click here)

This does not mean that Morocco has suddenly become a Western style democracy, but it is definitely a different face of Islam from the tyrannical religious regimes that repress human rights such as in Saudi Arabia.

The situation in Morocco is evolving and deserves greater attention from American leaders at the governmental as well as religious and private sector levels. Because of the number of leaders I met and the intense conversations with both government and civilian leaders I cannot report fully in this format. Also, our meetings with what few Christian leaders there are in Morocco were complex and difficult to report on at this point. I will, however, prepare a full White Paper on this fact finding mission which I hope to publish and post within a week or two.

By the time you receive this update I will be in Israel where I will first attend a service of Messianic (Christian) Jews in Tel Aviv. There are a growing number of Christian Jews in Israel, so many in fact that the Israeli Army now allows men and women recruits toswear to defend the nation upon the New Testament. I will then visit Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and on the Lebanese and Syrian borders. The Capitol Hill portion of this update is prepared by RFC Executive Director Peggy Birchfield.

In Mr. Murray's absence, Peggy Birchfield, Religious Freedom Coalition Legislative/Executive director, wrote the following report from Capitol Hill


I had the honor of attending a Special 108th Congressional Legislative Update Breakfast held at the U.S. Capitol, along with evangelical leaders, Congressional staffers and interested Black American candidates and activists. The event was hosted by former Congressman J. C. Watts and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). After a brief prayer was given, Senator Santorum started the breakfast discussion with the current topic of marriage. The Senator expressed his strong views concerning the direction the American courts are taking marriage. The Senator is concerned with the instability of the traditional marriage, which is evident today by changing family structures. Former Congressman J. C. Watts followed the Senator, giving his encouragement to African Americans to run for office. The former Representative is still active in Republican politics as the chairman of GOPAC, the premier national education and training organization for Republican state and local candidates. Watts stated, "Let's take candidates to the next level and get people out to vote!" Other keynote speakers were Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA) urging groups to help support the budgets given for abstinence programs and Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) educating the group on his bill, S874; the Sickle Cell Treatment Act that was introduced to help those who are struggling with the disease. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) shared his thoughts on taking "your" community back and helping families to get their communities back into shape. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) concluded the breakfast praising President Bush for the stand he has taken on marriage and the "No Child Left behind Act".

Prayers Are Needed

Attorney General John Ashcroft is one of our finest warriors against terror. He has been hospitalized due to a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis. RFC has worked hard with the Attorney General on several issues. He has been a long time friend of Mr. Murray. At the recent signing of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, Mr. Murray and his daughter had a chance to speak with the Attorney General. The Attorney General stated that he will vigorously defend the Partial Birth Abortion Ban against judicial attacks.

Please keep Attorney General Ashcroft, his wife and his family in your prayers.

Peggy Birchfield, Executive Director

Religious Freedom Coalition



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