Friday, October 28, 2016

Morocco - an Antidote For Islamophobia

At a time when the news media bombard the public with the horrific behaviour of Daesh (ISIS) and problems in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Iraq, it is easy to believe those who quickly claim that the root of the problem is Islam. However, Morocco continues to display to the world that moderate Islam is alive and well
President Kagame welcomes King Mohamed VI to Rwanda on his arrival for a three-day state visit

Morocco has long promoted itself as a mediator in West Africa and the Sahel and the champion of “moderate” Islam.  Morocco's Maliki school, a moderate branch of Sunni Islam, is particularly appealing to governments struggling to contain rising radicalism in the region.

Back in 2005 with the launch of the National Initiative for Human Development, Mbarka Bouaida, the Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs at the time, pointed out the “the importance of the role of the institution of the commander of the faithful,” most notably “in granting religious services to citizens, removed from any ideological ends.” Bouaida went so far as to talk about “the continuing education of young imams and 'mourchidats' [female Islamic scholars] as well as the rationalisation, rehabilitation and modernisation of traditional education.”

In September 2013, a parliamentary delegation told European MPs in Strasbourg that “Morocco is establishing itself in the region as a democratic Arab and Muslim country integrating several civilisations … a role that makes Morocco a unique political and economic development model that answers the problem of absolutism and intolerance that has arisen in other Arab and Muslim countries.”

In the same year, during the Moroccan King's visit to Mali, a religious cooperation agreement was announced and according to which "Morocco will train 500 Malian imams over several years."

In 2014 Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane raised Morocco's approach to counter extremism before the UN General Assembly. This approach consists of religious cooperation programs with Arab and African countries. Benkirane specified at the time that Morocco was ready to share its experience in the fight against terrorism, in the framework of bilateral cooperation with its allies.

Since then Morocco has committed to religious cooperation in Mali, Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Maldives, Tunisia, Libya and even Egypt. More recently, King Mohammed VI moved to expand Morocco's relationships even further by visiting the Republic of Rwanda as well as Tanzania and Ethiopia. The tour came as part the strategy designed by King Mohammed VI in recent years, which aims at diversifying its partnerships, strengthening its ties with the most important players on the African continent. The visits began just three months after Morocco announced its bid to rejoin to the African Union.

At the same time the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema seeks to gather African Muslim clerics and scholars to disseminate the moderate precepts of Islam and help combat extremism, reclusiveness and terrorism. For at the end of the day the fight against radicalism within the Islamic faith is an ideological battle. And since there has been a steady decline in scholarly authority within the Muslim world over the past several decades, the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema can play the role of a theological pillar of the Muslim ummah on the basis of ideals such as moderation, tolerance and co-existence.


Far way from the world of politics and diplomacy there is another potent example of Morocco's role in promoting the Islam of tolerance. Tourists to the Kingdom experience first hand the generosity and open-mindedness of its people. As one tourist recently told The View From Fez, "It opened my eyes to such a different form of Islam.  Being able to sit down and talk to Moroccans about their religion, about their life and festivals such as Eid and Ramadan, gave me a whole new perspective on Islam".


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