By Lahsini Elhoussine
By Lahsini Elhoussine
Casablanca – To quote the American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson ,“Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist.”
The concept of non-conformism is inextricably linked to a man’s existence within a particular community. That is to say, the true existence of human beings lies in their ability to question the conventional wisdom. In Morocco, for instance, we have long accepted religion the way it is introduced to us in our homes, schools, mosques and in Media.
We have failed to question anything associated with religion as such questioning was always deemed taboo. For the record, I do not use “religion” to mean Islam in its purest form, but rather a politicized and institutionalized version.
The institutionalization or politicization of religion has taken different forms. Take the example of the electoral campaigns of November 2011. Some preachers used the mosque as a forum to convince worshipers to vote for the party they support or belong to. Other preachers gave lectures in which they associated faithfulness to God with faithfulness to the so-called “Islamic Party” as long as religion is concerned.
For many unlearned people, many of whom are vulnerable to the manipulations of preachers, the distinction between what is religious and what is political is not an easy one to make. They blindly trust the preacher who functions as a truth-bearer and whose arguments are not to be questioned.
In many mosques, preachers unfortunately fail to represent a religious institution which normally should be independent. Instead, they have been playing two roles: one of a religious preacher and the other of a political preacher.
This schizophrenic tendency of the preacher has influenced the way Moroccans practice Islam. The institution of the mosque is not only a mouthpiece for a particular party but also an advocate for a narrow ideology.
During each Friday sermon, preachers simply regurgitate pre-packaged speeches from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. They do not address the daily realities and challenges from a neutral religious perspective. Instead, they bore their parishioners with superficial, mundane and politicized spiritual issues. This form of political indoctrination is something that Moroccans must challenge.
There is a strong need for rethinking the notion of “religion” and the “status” of the preacher. Religion must cease to be a lobbying tool for veteran political candidates. Moreover, it must address real issues that go beyond the basics such as how to properly perform ablution or how long is the proper length of a beard! This traditional role of religious institutions must be modernized.
The only way to help evolve this important institution is to render it independent by separating it from the political realm. It should be a neutral institution that enlightens people on how to achieve meaningful socio-economic development. Institutionalizing religion in Morocco must stop and constitutional reforms must not be restricted to language and media.