Morocco trains foreign students in practice of moderate Islam

In 2015, King Mohammed VI founded an institute to train imams and female preachers of Islam from Africa and Europe in the practice of moderate Islam. Many come from areas where extremist groups like Al Qaida and Islamic State are active.

by Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff

Morocco trains foreign students in practice of moderate Islam

Naminata Koulibaly, 30, receives training in a Moroccan Muslim teaching institute, founded by King Mohammed VI in 2015, and hopes to return to her home in Ivory Coast better equipped to advise women on religious issues.

She is one of 100 women admitted every year to study for up to three years in the institute in Rabat, run by Morocco’s ministry of religious affairs.

Morocco, which is nearly 100% Muslim, has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy – and has offered training to imams and male and female preachers of Islam from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.

It currently trains 1,300 people mostly from the sub-Sahara nations of Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia and Chad, where Al Qaida and Islamic State are active.

“When I go back to my country, I will find some children and women who did not go to school and don’t know a lot about religion…we will be very useful to them and we will teach them about the fundamentals of religion,” said Koulibaly.

“We will show them how to behave with others and not to be extremists. We will show them how to be moderate in religion”.

Compared to other countries in North Africa Morocco has been largely insulated from militant attacks. The first since 2011 took place last December when two Scandinavian tourists were found murdered in a tourist spot in the Atlas Mountains. Four suspects had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Students at the institute receive 2,000 dirhams ($208.33) a month in addition to free accommodation, plane tickets, and health insurance. Admission criteria include having a BA degree.

The curriculum covers Islamic studies along with philosophy, history of religions, sexual education and mental health.

“We show them that the concepts of democracy and human rights serve purposes rooted in Islamic values,” said institute director Abdeslam Lazaar.

Imams also receive vocational training in electrics, agriculture or tailoring to enable them to have a source of stable revenue when they return home.

Imam training can help sub-Saharan countries facing militancy and a vacuum in the supervision of religion, Salim Hmimnat of the Rabat-based African Studies Institute said.

Pope Francis visited the imam training institute during his trip to Morocco in March.

Students also come from France, such as 25-year-old Aboubakr Hmaidouch.

“The Muslim community in France is in great need of imams and female religious preachers to ensure that the values of religion contribute to living together and to the spiritual well-being of society,” he said.

Training takes into account practical life and culture, and accepts diversity he said.

“When I return… I hope to put into practice and transmit this knowledge, especially this spirit of peace, love, fraternity and tolerance.”

The institute also helps Rabat expand its foothold in a region where major Moroccan banks and companies have been investing for years.

“The use of religion plays an important role in the kingdom’s overall soft power equation,” said Anouar Boukhars, a Maghreb expert and Carnegie Endowment fellow, noting Morocco promotes its tolerant Islam as an alternative to the extremist ideologies in the Sahel.

April 27, 2019 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Morocco used to rule many of these countries and imported slaves from them. I wonder if this is still part of its agenda in this region. Not slavery outright, perhaps, but maybe cheap labor for Moroccan-owned companies.

    Like Ted, I would like to learn more about what they actually teach in these schools. Do they actually teach students to oppose jihadism and intolerance of other faiths?

  2. @ Carl Goldberg, PhD:
    I didn’t read the article until now. I was surprised that it said it was founded to teach the Practice of moderate Islam But didn’t explain what it is. Does it attack Jihad and all the things we hate about Islam or not.

  3. This is fundamentally flawed. This school does NOT train students to practice “moderate Islam” because, as Turkish President Erdogan so famously said: “There is no such thing as moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’t it.” What this school does is to teach students to practice Islam moderately which means to ignore the jihadist commands in the Koran and the Sunnah which are taught and preached in mosques all over the world. We must always distinguish between Islam, the belief system which is taught in all the mosques, and the practice of Islam which may deviate in many ways from Islam.