Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, the leader of Morocco’s largest opposition movement and longtime opponent of two Moroccan kings, died Thursday. He was 84. Yassine, who founded Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality), accused the monarchy of being corrupt and dictatorial and questioned its claim to religious legitimacy. His spent a decade under house arrest at the hands of Morocco’s former ruler, King Hassan II.
Formed in 1987, Adl wal Ihsan is officially banned but tolerated, though its members are frequently harassed or arrested by police. The movement advocates an Islamic state and an end to the monarchy, and professes non-violence and preaches compassionate Islam.
It has a sizable following, believed to number hundreds of thousands. Most Moroccans are Muslims, but religion in this North African nation of 32 million is generally more moderate than in many countries in the Arab world.
Born in Marrakech in 1928, Yassine had been a teacher and a school inspector for the Ministry of Education, and from 1965 on, a member of one of the most famous Moroccan Sufi brotherhoods, the Boutchichiyya.Yassine reportedly fell out with the leadership of the brotherhood over its refusal to engage more directly in political matters, and founded his own organisation. Yassine was jailed in a mental asylum for three years for publishing an open letter to King Hassan II, 'L'Islam ou le déluge', denouncing his rule as un-Islamic. Following his release he was kept under house arrest for many years, before eventually being released in the early years of the rule of King Mohammed VI.
Yassine’s pronouncements and more than 20 books, once circulated secretly, are now easier to get because of gradually loosening restrictions and the Internet.