Abdelilah Benkiran does not seem to conceive that a foreign government could send a female representative to talk with him. During the whole meeting he talked strictly with Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and refused to speak with the Belgian minister of Justice.
French version HERE
English translation by Point de Bascule
From left to right: Annemie Turtelboom, Belgian minister of Justice, Didier Reynders, Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs and Abdelilah Benkiran, Moroccan Muslim Brotherhood PM
Fabrice Grofilley (RTLinfo.be – April 25, 2012): Moroccan PM snubs Annemie Turtelboom and almost provokes a diplomatic incident (Quand le premier ministre marocain snobe Annemie Turtelboom, à la limite de l’incident diplomatique)
Rabat (Morocco) – April 11, 2012
On that day the Moroccan Prime minister, Abdelilah Benkiran, received in audience Didier Reynders, Belgian minister of Foreign Affairs and Annemie Turtelboom, minister of Justice. Both Belgians got a cold reception.
Abdelilah Benkiran does not seem to conceive that a foreign government could send a female representative to talk with him. During the whole meeting, he talked strictly with Didier Reynders. Worse, the Moroccan PM explained to his visitor that he speaks French very well and that it was “useless to bring an interpreter with him”. The message is clear: I do not speak with a woman. Annemie Turtelboom could not believe it. All the dossiers she is responsible of (and they are not light ones: equality between men and women, forced marriages, return of convicted prisoners in their home country) were eventually tackled by Didier Reynders. Facing them, the Moroccan held to his prayer beads during the whole meeting.
After the meeting, Annemie Turtelboom was furious. If Didier Reynders had not been there and if she had not feared to provoke a major diplomatic incident, she would have left and slammed the door, she said.
The anecdote is significant. Abdelilah Benkiran is a member of the Justice and Development Party, the Islamist party that won the last elections. In the last few days, he even criticized the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, something never seen before. “The Arab Spring is not over yet. It is still here and could well come back”, he said according to Reuters.
Two weeks after the incident, the Belgian side has not done anything yet. Annemie Turtelboom’s spokesperson now claims that the Moroccan PM was joking around and that he ended up apologizing. Unofficially though, those who told me the anecdote are not sure that these apologies were expressed.
GMBDR (December 4, 2011): Qaradawi Congratulates Moroccan Islamists on Parliamentary Win
Point de Bascule (July 5, 2007): Female politician banned from entering a mosque in Canada (Politicienne interdite dans une mosquée au Canada)