"Marock" a story of Jewish-Muslim love challenging taboos in Muslim society and provoking ire

"This way, you'll think of other things," he says gently.

The scene is just one of many provocative moments in the movie "Marock," a story of Jewish-Muslim love challenging taboos in this traditional Muslim society and provoking Islamic politicians' ire.

The movie only won general release on screens here this week - nearly a year after it showed at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 - following a long vetting by government censors.

The Justice and Development Party, Morocco's increasingly popular Islamist political party, claims that "Marock" breaks a Moroccan law forbidding offense to Islam.

"It's a mockery of Moroccan spiritual life," said Abdelkader Amara, a member of the PJD's general secretariat.

The film follows Rita, a rebellious daughter of Casablanca's thin upper crust, as she and her friends approach the end of high school, and then adulthood. Along the way, they gulp whiskey, smoke hashish, party, eat during Ramadan, and indulge in romantic intrigue.

Rita's youthful hedonism gets complicated when she falls for handsome daredevil Youri, a Jew. While her friends accept the affair, she must hide it from her tradition-bound parents and religiously conservative older brother.

"I don't care about religion," Rita tells Youri. "I just want to be able to kiss you where I want and when I want."

Director Laila Marrakchi, a Muslim married to a Sephardic Jew, grew up in the moneyed Casablanca milieu her movie depicts, the Ap reports.

"I wanted to make an 'American Graffiti' in Morocco, to show a certain kind of Moroccan youth who exist even if some people would like to deny it," she told The Associated Press.

"I knew in making this film that some things were going to cause discomfort, notably the love relationship between a young Muslim and young Jew. But for me, it is a symbol of peace and tolerance in a complicated world."

Morocco prides itself on religious tolerance and is home to a centuries-old Jewish community. While anti-Jewish feeling has accompanied moments of political tension, and Jewish religious and community sites were targeted in bombing attacks in Casablanca in 2003, Moroccan Jews and Muslims have generally coexisted peacefully.

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