Rabat bets on better imams to counter extremist Islam
Morocco has shifted from mass arrests to tight surveillance in its fight against Islamic militants and hopes a new campaign to reinforce the authority of state-appointed imams will cut off support for jihadism.
As militants reach a growing audience through DVDs and the Internet, the government has tried to seize back the initiative, revising laws governing mosques and adding new theological councils to tighten control of religious life in the regions.
(Photo: Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech at sunset, 7 Jan 2005/Tom Heneghan)
Now it is preparing to send 1,500 supervisors into the north African country’s towns and villages to make sure that imams are preaching the moderate local version of Islam and respect for King Mohammed in his role as leader of Morocco’s Muslims.
“In this era of satellite TV, people no longer accept to see religious officials who are not trained,” said Hakim el Ghissassi, a cabinet member at Morocco’s Ministry for Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs. “If today we deny religious instruction to the young, where will they look for it? On extremist Internet sites with self-proclaimed radical Imams.”