Rabat – Abdelhak El Khiam, the head of the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), has reiterated Morocco’s offer to help counter radical Islamist propaganda through the training of imams in Europe.
In an interview with the British media outlet Financial Times, the Moroccan anti-terror chief said the kingdom is keen on training imams from Europe to help spread the teachings of the Malikite school, the Islamic school of jurisdiction followed in Morocco and across the Maghreb
El Khiam deplored what he saw as a religious vacuum in Europe, which he said will be always exploited by extremists unless it is filled with the proper institutionalized discourse.
“The practice of religion should be institutionalized in all countries, and by this I mean there should be institutions which take an interest in monitoring religious discourse in mosques,” the BCIJ chief said.
Morocco, where religious discourse is mostly controlled by state institutions and in their majority do not escape state supervision, can help implementing the same process in Europe, according to El Khiam.
“Here in Morocco there is a religious council of scholars tasked with supervising sermons and unifying fatwas [religious rulings]. It is not possible for any imam to preach his sermon without it being reviewed by the council to see if it conforms to tolerant Islamic precepts and is not hard-line.”
The Moroccan security head said that the August terrorist attacks in Spain, in which a number of people of Moroccan origins were accused of carrying out, made Moroccan officials adjust their counter-terror strategy to include Moroccans living abroad, especially those susceptible of falling prey to radicalism.
“To further confront this new phenomenon we have to try to follow those people. The kingdom and all other countries which have subjects in Western countries have to develop new strategies and new measures to follow their people,” he said.
To face the growing threat of terrorism, Morocco has for years adopted a multi-faceted strategy based on enhancing its security capabilities, as well trying to tackle the sources of radicalism by focusing on human development and reforming education and religious discourse to promote a moderate narrative of Islam.
The kingdom sought to promote its approach by setting up a religious institute for teaching local and foreign imams, who come largely from Western Africa and France where a sizeable minority of Muslims, especially of North African descent, lives.
Paris signed a deal with Morocco to open up a similar religious institute on French soil. The religious center is due to be inaugurated in September 2018, after having received validation from the Union of French Mosques (UMF) in April.
While announcing the center, the union said that “the fight against radicalism, which affects some members of our youth, partly rests on our capacity to educate our religious personnel well and to provide them with the necessary tools to accomplish their noble mission.”