By Lahcen Haddad
By Lahcen Haddad
Rabat – While Europe struggles with questions of secularism, the war against anti-Semitism and racism, and Islam’s compatibility with the Modern State, Morocco is promoting a moderate and tolerant Islam, one that spreads beyond its borders.
The Kingdom of Morocco has always been a welcoming land for all religions while still honoring its own laws. The new Moroccan Constitution established in July 2011 reaffirms this principle: “Islam is the religion of the State, which guarantees for all the free exercice of faith.” The Constitution asserts that the King of Morocco is the Commander of the Faithful, and not only the commander of Muslims. This phrase represents what the Moroccan monarch embodies: a religious and pacific authority as well as a source of religious unity.
The constitutional text thereby creates a sanctuary for millennial unity. Although the majority of the Moroccan population is Muslim, it has always lived in perfect harmony with all other religious groups. Christian foreigners and Moroccan Jews have reported that they are able to practice their faith under good conditions and without interruptions, with the exception of cases of outright proselytism.
The close proximity of churches, synagogues and mosques in some cities therefore comes as a shock to no one. The Kingdom prides itself on hundreds of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches within its borders, a Museum of Moroccan Judaism (the only Jewish museum in the Arab world), numerous well-preserved synagogues, and, thanks to King Mohammed VI’s efforts, more than a hundred newly renovated Jewish cemeteries.
Morocco is undoubtedly well aware that this religious unity is fragile; the kingdom sits within an unstable global context plagued by terrorist attacks from ISIS and other smaller terrorist groups in Europe, the Middle East and West Africa.
These conflicts are the reason that Morocco has chosen to adopt a “voluntarist” religious policy that promotes a more enlightened Islam. The creation of the Mohamed VI Foundation for African Religious Scholars and a center for research and training in interreligious relations are just two manifestations of Morocco’s tolerant religious policy.
To this day, Morocco is the sole model of Islamic instruction to be considered a middle ground alternative to the purist and dogmatic approach preached by jihadist groups and certain influential centers in the Middle East.
Furthermore, following cooperation agreements between Morocco and other countries, many imams and preachers have come from Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, particularly from France, to attend theological training in Rabat that teaches tolerance and opennesss; the educational tools used there have been adapted for religious education on the internet as well.
The Kingdom is not hesitant to dispatch prominent clerics to run conferences in French, European and Sub-Saharan mosques. By leveraging both its security policy and religious diplomacy, Morocco hopes to build a link between spirituality and moderation so that young believers may find a true alternative to the jihadist cause. These efforts are the Kingdom’s main contribution to the global war against terrorism.
Translated by Rania Tazi
Mr. Lahcen Haddad is Morocco’s Minister of Tourism.