Bourara Khadija, top adviser to the transport minister, said on Thursday: "Since July, Air Maroc has banned its workers from praying in their offices to enforce work discipline, but the airline workers are allowed to pray at two mosques nearby.

"It is a shame that the decision was branded as a crackdown on religious freedom," she told Reuters. "It is wrong to claim that RAM [Royal Air Maroc] abuses the religious rights of its workers."

The main legal opposition Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) this week stepped up its criticism of the moves by state-owned Royal Air Maroc (RAM), calling them an abuse of religious freedom.

Government officials accused PJD of stirring up the four-month-old issue to try to influence parliamentary polls next year.

'Enforcing discipline'

Khadija said RAM had to enforce discipline at work as it faced stiff competition from foreign airlines after Morocco signed an open sky agreement with the European Union.

"There is no veil issue here at all. Only two female workers were asked to move from a front desk to a RAM call centre if they wanted to wear veils and they obeyed the order"

Bourara Khadija,
top adviser to the transport minister

She added that RAM had banned its pilots from fasting while flying during the holy month of Ramadan because plane simulation tests showed possible security risks.
   
"Aviation authorities proved that a fasting pilot can not fully control a plane's gears and equipment after spending some hours flying," she said.

Noureddine Gherbal, PJD deputy, told reporters some female RAM employees had also complained to him in writing about being barred from wearing Islamic headscarves.
   
But Khadija, insisting that RAM had acted fairly, said: "There is no veil issue here at all. Only two female workers were asked to move from a front desk to a RAM call centre if they wanted to wear veils and they obeyed the order."