- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

RABAT, Morocco A spokesperson for the Royal Place has announced that King Mohammed VI has chosen a bride and will be married early next year, ending speculation about "instability of the throne."
The 38-year-old monarch is the secular leader of this North African kingdom and the "commander of the faithful," and as such has to be married and produce an heir to the throne.
Salma Bennani is the future mother of princes and princesses, yet the wife of the Moroccan king is not accorded the title of a queen.
Fourteen years younger than the king, she hails from the ancient city of Fez and is the daughter of a wealthy banker. Miss Bennani, who has a degree in engineering, most recently worked at Morocco's largest industrial conglomerate ONA in the commercial center of Casablanca.
The fact that the plans for a royal wedding were made public marked a sharp break with the tradition of Mohammed's father, the late King Hassan II.
M6, as he is affectionately called, apparently wants a more modern marriage in the style of King Abdullah of Jordan and his wife, Rania.
Like the Jordanian monarch, Morocco has expressed its unequivocal support for the U.S. battle against terrorism, yet King Abdullah also has warned against any attack on Iraq.
In an unusual gesture of sympathy, the Muslim king ordered high-ranking members of the Cabinet to attend a service in a Christian church in the capital city of Rabat shortly after the tragic events of September 11.
This was the first time that a large number of high-ranking Moroccan Muslims paid their respects in a Christian house of worship. However, the official support for the United States is not always mirrored by the population at large.
Last week, students at the university of Rabat distributed leaflets proclaiming, "Solidarity with the people of Afghanistan" and "Against the terrorism of the United States, Great Britain and Israel."
Reports by the Spanish news agency Efe said this was the first public reaction in Morocco, organized by a group called the Panarabic Islamic Council (CPI).
The excitement of the wedding will serve to bring a sense of unity to a country sharply divided between urban wealth and rural poverty. It also should end rumors that the monarch is homosexual, exploited by Islamic fundamentalists in an effort to discredit the legitimacy of the king.
Since ascending the throne in 1999, Mohammed VI has endeavored to change the old Islamic family law that severely restricts the rights of women.
On his first state visit to Washington two years ago, the young monarch captured the hearts of Washingtonians and was hailed as "king of the poor," a reference to the king's effort to address the issue of poverty in his country.


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