RABAT - A government decision to ban live transmission of gambling in Morocco is sparking a heated debate among religious authorities in the country.
"This decision could have been significant had it been accompanied by a series of other steps related to politics and the economy, Saeid Lakhal, an authority on Islamic movements, told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television on Tuesday, April 3.
He argued that the ban signals a growing "Islamization" of state media in the North African country.
"Banning live gambling will not solve any of the problems of average citizens," he said.
"This only concerns gamblers and anyway they know where to go when they want to gamble and will not be affected by the ban."
Telecommunications Minister Mustapha al-Khalfi earlier announced a ban on TV gambling in Morocco.
"I will not allow gambling games to be screened live on state TV which is funded by the Moroccan people even if this costs me my job, he told members of the Education, Culture, and Communications Committee in the parliament.
He attributed his decision to the negative impact of live gambling on TV viewers, especially the youth.
On one day in February, the number of viewers watching live gambling was more than 900,000, he said.
There is a difference between social liberalism and this type of unlimited liberalism that does not work towards protecting younger generations, said Al-Khalfi, who is the youngest minister in the new government headed by the Islamist Justice and Development Party
The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won 27% of parliament seats in this month's elections.
But the ban won plaudits from other religious authorities.
"When the Justice and Development Party came to power, they became answerable to God and to the people, Omar al-Kettani, an authority on Islamic economy, told Al-Arabiya.
If they do not obey God, they will be betraying the people.
Kettani agrees that gambling has deep negative impacts on the society.
"European governments do their best to protect their citizens from the dangers of alcohol and gambling while here in Morocco we turn a blind eye to such serious social ailments, he said.
Kettani explained that the poor who suffer the most as they opt to gamble in the hope of making money.
"It is unacceptable on both the social and the human levels not to protect those poor from giving in to those illusions of fast gain.
He said that gambling also discourages people from working because it offers them an easy way of earning money.
The value of hard work is important in any developed society and this becomes difficult with the prevalence of gambling.
Kettani described the decision to ban live screening of gambling as a positive step towards banning gambling altogether.
The ban is preliminary initiative that promises more positive actions in the future and the economic results of such steps will start showing later.
Islam prohibits any game which involves betting, that is, which has an element of gambling in it.According to statistics, around three million Moroccans practice different forms of gambling.