Spirit Daily



Muslim Who Miraculously Escaped

Dire Morocco Prison

Credits Blessed Mother

By Michael H. Brown

A Muslim woman who was part of the king's inner circle in Morocco, but who was later jailed (after an attempted coup), has detailed the incredible account of twenty years behind bars in the most hideous conditions imaginable -- a detainment that ended, she says, by an intervention of the Blessed Mother.

It was in 1972 that Malika Oufkir, daughter of Moroccan General Muhammad Oufkir, was imprisoned with her mother and siblings after their father attempted to depose the reigning and, as it turns out, brutal monarch, King Hassan II. She and her family would not see freedom until 1991. 

It is only with horror that one can read her memoirs, Stolen Lives, (available at Shop. BarnesandNobel), which details an existence that for two decades traveled beyond the darkest nightmares. 

During her time in prison, the aristocratic Malika, who was raised in the king's own palace, was to encounter an array of experiences terrible even by the standards of the gulag: isolation, freezing cold, and rotten food often contaminated by the feces and urine of rodents, when there was food at all.  At night, Malika and her sisters lay terrified as swarms of flea-infested rats crawled over them. 

Most of this occurred at an ancient desert "death camp" called Bir-Jdid in the southern part of this north African country. Officials wanted them to die for what General Oufkir (who was promptly executed) had done -- and for twenty years the torment proceeded with unremitting cruelty, stealing their health, their looks, and their youth. Malika was but a girl of 18 at the start of the ordeal, and one brother was three. 

But there were subtle signs of heaven's presence along the way. At the outset, before they were totally isolated, a local "prophet" had predicted that they would be detained a very long time, but that after a horrible ordeal they would be saved by something "miraculous." 

After 15 years of isolation -- mostly in the intensely guarded prison of Bir-Jdid -- the miracle came in the form of an extraordinary escape. 

The Oufkirs were able to tunnel out of the prison using only a spoon, the handle of a knife, and the top of a sardine tin -- then flee to a major city despite hot pursuit. 

It is here that the Blessed Mother -- known to Christians and Muslims alike, indeed famous for her appearance at Fatima, an Arabic name that means to "abstain" and some say "destiny" -- comes in. While the Oufkirs were building the tunnel and concealing it every night, writes Malika, who was raised Muslim, "the guards carried out a painstaking inspection, even in the little room where the tunnel was. They beamed their torches into corners, they looked everywhere, under the beds, on the ceiling, in the cavities. They tapped the floor with their feet listening for a different sound, the faintest echo."

But incredibly, they never came upon the tunnel. The Oufkirs attributed such intervention to the Virgin, for whom they developed a surprising, nearly inexplicable devotion.

It was to save their lives.

"No guard ever set foot on our stone slabs. They walked round them, stopped just in front of them, and that was all. We were convinced the Virgin was protecting us: the first time we opened up the hole, the irregularity of the ground formed the shape of the cross, the length of the stone slabs. We made another cross out of cardboard, which we placed on top of the last layer of stone before sealing it up. We called the passage 'Mary's tunnel.'

"We believed this so fervently that we prayed on our knees when we opened it up every evening and when we closed it every morning," continued Malika. "We had rejected Islam, which had brought us nothing good, and opted for Catholicism instead. Mother, who had spent her childhood in a convent, knew all the prayers by heart and at our insistence taught them to us, although with reluctance [for she remained Muslim]."

But the children gravitated toward Christianity and so "Marian" became these Muslims that one of the sisters, Mouna-Inan, changed her name to Maria. And during the 1987 escape, heaven intervened outside the prison gates as a pack of vicious, wild dogs threatened. "Their leader came forward baring his fangs, growled and looked poised to attack," recounted Malika in the book. "We froze, like statues, and held our breath, waiting for a miracle. Which, improbable as it seemed, was what occurred. The dog gave an unfathomable whine and slunk away, followed by the rest of the pack."

When they were recaptured, news of it spread around the world, and pressure on King Hassan II prevented their being tossed back into such abominable conditions. Instead, for the next five years, they were detained comfortably under house arrest. The escape was widely described as a "miracle." No one thought a human could get out of Bir-Jdid.

But they did. They did at the behest of Mary. It is documented in an otherwise secular book. A riveting book. An eye-opener. 

At the police station, realizing they would be okay, and that a brother they worried about was alive, Malika almost fainted. 

"Someone went to fetch me an orange juice," she said. "They opened the window and told me to breathe deeply. The police station overlooked a church. I looked out distractedly. That was when I saw her. Mary. The virgin.  

"Nestling in an alcove, she was holding the infant Jesus in her arms and gazing at me with a benevolent expression." 

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