Rabat - Morocco’s moderate, tolerant approach to Islam has largely prevented religious extremist movements from flourishing within its borders.
Rabat – Morocco’s moderate, tolerant approach to Islam has largely prevented religious extremist movements from flourishing within its borders.
Morocco deliberately works to prevent and control radicalism by ensuring that the practice of Islam remains unified, moderate, and stable throughout the Kingdom. As international terrorism afflicts the globe, Morocco has managed to remain stable and safe within its own tumultuous region.
Moroccan Islam follows the Maliki school of Islamic thought and is heavily influenced by Sufism, a mystical theology and philosophy that focuses on peace and a withdrawal from materialism. The Moroccan Monarchy is also a key influencer. Because the King is accepted as the Commander of the Faithful and the Prince of Islam, his authority in the religious realm strongly dictates Moroccan Islam’s trajectory.
Morocco’s geographical location influences its trademark tranquility as well. Close proximity to Europe means that the country is influenced by and interacts with the West more than many Islamic nations further East. This results in communication with other cultures and religions to create a widely tolerant population.
According to research conducted by Madeline Murphy, a student at George Washington University, the goals of Moroccan Islam are to convince citizens that the power of peace is greater than the power of destructive violence. Moroccan Islam “prevents radicalism by explicitly removing signs of radical sympathy and keeps Moroccans attracted to the stability of the Kingdom through a singular vision of Islam,” says Murphy.
This system is effective because it preaches acceptance of different faiths while promoting the importance of Morocco’s Islam for those who follow it. Murphy states that “through control over what is said in mosques, the training of imams, and projects of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the Moroccan government maintains a tight leash over the Moroccan Islam that has come to develop as a moderate and tolerant interpretation of the Qur’an.” That is, an interpretation that focuses on tolerance and love of neighbors, which imams and Qur’anic teachers say is “the real Islam.”
Today’s strategy of combatting radicalism began following the 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca, when a series of explosions killed 45 people and injured over 100. Since then, King Mohammed VI has strengthened the government’s role in addressing radicalism and has supported organizations and programs that preserve and promote a more moderate Islam.
In a speech given last year, King Mohammed VI condemned terrorism in the name of Islam and stated that religion must instead be used to combat it. “As ignorance spreads in the name of religion,” he stated, “Muslims, Christians, and Jews have to close ranks in order to tackle all forms of extremism, hatred, and reclusiveness.”
As part of this initiative, the King opened a new center for training imams in 2014 to teach the moderate strain of Moroccan Islam. In addition to training moderate imams, the institution aims to “create a cadre of educated religious leaders in various countries who can simultaneously interface with one another and spread their teachings locally.”
In addition, specific guidelines placed in Moroccan mosques ensure that the theology reaching Moroccan citizens is in line with the country’s goals. Imams trained outside of Morocco are forbidden from preaching and publicly interpreting the Qur’an. Prayers are tightly regulated by the Minister of Islamic Affairs to ensure uniformity, and guidelines for holiday messages are provided as well.
Local branches of the Islamic Ministry consistently monitor imams. “Constant regulation ensures that imams promote a religion of tolerance and reject extremism and militancy,” says Murphy.
The Ministry of Islamic affairs also funds Qur’anic schools. Religious education teaches the Qur’an and enforces the values of Moroccan Islam. Qur’anic schools are public and free, increasing attendance and allowing a broad range of Moroccan citizens to practice and propagate the values of their education.
The United States State Department Reports on Terrorism of 2015 praised this counterterrorism strategy, saying, “Morocco has a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism that prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere.”
As international tensions towards extremist efforts rise, Morocco’s king remains steady in his condemnation of terrorism and its associations with Islam. “Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims,” he said in his 2016 speech. “Their only link to Islam is the pretexts they use to justify their crimes and their folly. They have strayed from the right path.”