French newspaper L'Express banned in Morocco for insulting Islam

The international version of the French paper, Daily L’Express, was recently banned in Morocco, due to a set of articles that were “disrespectful to Islam,” according to Morocco’s communication ministry.
L'Express is the only French newspaper that prints an 8-page supplement specifically for a Moroccan audience.

BEIRUT, November 4, 2008 (MENASSAT/L’EXPRESS) - The Moroccan Ministry of Communication banned the entry of the international-edition of the French daily L’Express to Morocco on October 31 because of a report that was published in its October 30 issue.

One of the articles was titled "Jesus, the rebel message," and another “Mohammad, prophet and warrior”, to establish the differences between Islam and Christianity.

Managing editor Christian Makarian said he didn't understand this reaction because the articles deal about the conflicting relation Islam can have with other religions, but never contained any defaming or offensive sentences.

Moroccan wisdom

The Moroccan Ministry of Communication simply banned the publishing of this newspaper, declaring that the report is “an insult to Islam”, based on article 29 of the Moroccan Press Code, which permits the ban of newspapers “when they insult Islam, the royal regime, the territorial integrity, the respect to the King and the public order.”

Magazine staff are surprised and don’t seem to understand why they are being blamed.

Preemptive measures were taken: in order to respect the Moroccan sensibilities, the face of Mohammad was veiled, in conformity with Islam to not show the face of the Prophet.

No precise article was mentioned, which means the whole report is suspected.

However, the report doesn’t bring any new information. The articles were inspired by Christian Makarian’s book, The confrontation: Jesus-Mohammad, with the sub-title, Jesus and Mohammad don’t speak of the same God.

According to the site algerie-dz, the part entitled, Mohammad, prophet or warrior, was the reason behind the ban, which would be a paradox, knowing that the Sira as well as the Quran described the warrior activities of Mohammad, even mentioning how he distributed his loot.

The document, going back to the Quran, also reminds that the Holy book mentioned that the “previous ones”, the Thora as well as the Gospels, were falsified, and that the Christians will add Mary to the Trinity.

Hence, the comparison between the Bible and the Quran, is difficult, with the ill-established bases.

“In respect to the religious sensitivity of our Moroccan readers,” adds Makarian, we took care to conceive a cover specially dedicated to the international edition, with the face of Mohammad being veiled, in conformity to Islams customs.

The image used is issued from an ottoman manuscript of the XVI century and was not modified. Despite this special attention that shows our respect to the Moroccan public and Islam, we were banned. I don’t understand.”

Limited discussion

On the website of l’Express, the commentaries were closed because many Internet users refused to discuss others’ religions.

“We remind you that there must be respectful debate and according to the law, we refuse any abusive, defaming or xenophobic comments. These comments also lead to legal suits against their writers. The usage of a pseudonym does not prevent your identification.”


According to the daily, this report was written after a meeting of around 50 catholic and Muslim dignitaries, on November 4th in Rome, to “help the dialogue between Islam and Christianity.”

Once a month for the last two years, L’Express has been the only French daily to publish a supplement Express Maroc, an eight page section entirely dedicated to news and reports of interest to the Moroccan people.

Bans from all sectors

Reporters without Borders denounced the ban of L’Express, especially after the Algerian and Tunisian authorities followed Morocco’s lead.

“It is still more unfortunate that Algiers and Tunis decided to follow in Morocco’s footsteps,” added the organization, wondering, “if the kingdom is in the process of becoming an example for the repression of press freedom in the region.”

Even in Lebanon, where one might think that religious subjects, whether Christian or Muslim, are accepted without any problems, censorship has a word to say.

A page containing the article entitled “Iran: the troubling beauty of the Prophet”, in the June 24-28, 2006 edition of French daily Courrier International, was torn out of 280 issues distributed in the country, the instant the newspapers arrived into Lebanon.

The censored article implied that, contrary to Sunni Islam, the Iranian Shia accepts the varying representations of the prophet. The text was published along with the picture of a young man, taken by a Tunisian in 1905, and its Iranian replica, represented as Mohammad’s portrait.
The Lebanese distributors of the paper, with interior ministry approval, tore out the pages so as to avoid destruction of the whole issue. The ministry said on June 28 that it had been done because the article “offended the dignity of Islam and was likely to provoke religious tension between Muslims.

Dan Brown’s novel, DaVinci Code, was also banned in Lebanon in September 2004. According to the General Security administration, the book was withdrawn from the Lebanese libraries at the request of the Catholic Center for Information, for it contained “defaming” sentences against the Church.

(MENASSAT’s Rita Barotta contributed to this article.)