By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq
By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq
Rabat – For the last couple of years, France has been a target of several terrorist attacks, many of which were conducted by young French radicalized Muslims.
To counter such a threat, French authorities invested in enhancing security measures and increasing the number of police and army personnel.
But as many argue, the battle against terrorism cannot be won by guns only. The radical ideology should be countered as well.
To do so, France sought the help of Morocco. The latter has been praised by many as a model of religious tolerance. The kingdom’s engagement to spread an image of a moderate Islam and fight extremism, both internally and in Africa and the Arab world, adds to its credit as well.
Morocco engaged, since 2004, in a long process to restructure the religious field. Programs to train imams and “morchidates” (female preachers) were launched.
Since then, Morocco seems to have accumulated enough experience to help other countries fight the extremist ideology.
After signing a deal with Morocco to train visiting French imams, these religion students will no longer have to travel to receive such education.
A French institute to train imams is due to open up in September 2018. L’Union des Mosquées de France (UMF) validated this project on Sunday.
A communiqué by the Union, reported in the online French newspaper “La Croix”, reads: ‘’The fight against radicalism, which affects some members of our youth, partly rests on our capacity to well educate our religious personnel and to provide them with the necessary tools to accomplish their noble mission”.
“La Croix” wrote that the opening up of the institute is good news for the French government. The MUF explained the choice of having recourse to the Moroccan expertise by saying that it was a “pragmatic” and “well-thought out” step since “the Kingdom of Morocco enjoys an international reputation in this field.
Moroccan political scientist and sociologist, Youssef Belal, said in an interview with “France 24” that the kingdom “has a very long tradition of Islamic knowledge”, and that “Morocco is well respected as a center of knowledge”, adding that the country that has always championed “an Islam of the middle path”.
Teaching this “Islam of the middle ground” is what the French institute is going to do. The validation of the project comes after a period of doubt because of concerns over the cost and the location.
But, as “La Croix” pointed out, two important factors changed the whole equation. First, the mosque of Evry in Courcouronnes, South of Paris, accepted to host the institute. Secondly, Rabat based Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates decided to officially select and bear the charges of the teachers for three years.
It is hoped that by the end of this period, the French trainees will be ready to assume teaching roles themselves to carry on the fight against radicalism.