Morocco, which is trying to protect itself from Muslim extremists, sent a delegation of female preachers to Belgium last week, in order to convince the Belgian authorities that Moroccan Islam has gone through a real revolution in recent years and is an alternative to the extremist Islam which developed in recent years in Brussels.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Starting in 2005, Moroccan women could, in effect, train to be preachers. The 'mourchidates' have the same functions as male imams, except for conducting prayers in the mosque. The initiative was taken by King Mohamed VI, after the Islamist attacks in Casablanca, which killed 45 in 2003.
"Out action doesn't aim to combat radicalism, but to protect the identity of Moroccan Islam," one of the mourchidates from the Rabat region, Khadija Aktami, told us.
About fifty female preachers graduate every year, making up a quarter of their class. Each ulema council now includes a woman.
These mourchidates enter a man's world - 50,000 mosques, 82,000 religious institutions - but Rabat hopes that the feminization movement is irreversible.
"Woman make up half of society," says the mourchidate, when asked about female Islam. "In her nature she gives forgiveness and mercy. he's the mother, the wife. She's more patient." Moroccan Islam is known for its moderation, but is also strongly encased. It is based on four principles: the Maliki rite, the ban on excommunication, Sufi spirituality and the role of the King, who is considered the 'commander of the faithful'.
Rabat closely follows the evolution of Islam in Belgium, where there are at least 400,000 Belgian-Moroccans. Because they retain the Moroccan nationality even when they become Belgian, and return to the country on vacations. Some import a Wahhabi or Shiite Islam which has nothing to do with Moroccan Islam.
"We estimate that 23,000 Moroccan had been converted to Shia in Belgium," says a diplomat, who asked not be identified. "We are alarmed by what we see in Brussels." Rabat sees Shiism as a direct threat to the authority of the King, and last year broke off diplomatic relations with Iran, hoping to contain the rise of Shia.
"We don't have a policy of proselytizing," Hakim El Ghissassi, of the Ministry for Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs, says diplomatically. He accompanied the mourchidates delegation as they met the francophone parties.
Nevertheless, the message is smoothly passed to the Belgian politicians: Morocco would like Islam to be better controlled in Belgium. And the kingdom is considering Turkey with interest, as the country's Diyanet, a department directly controlled by the PM in Ankara, manages many mosques in Belgium.
In the 1990s, Belgium was one of the first European countries to establish a "Muslim Executive", to ban the so-called "embassy Islam". the problem is that the Executive has been undermined by internal quarrels and had even undergone a police raid. Several ministers tried to create a new momentum, so far without success . The current president of the Executive is a Turkish imam from Quaregnon, Semsettin Ugurlu.
"The Muslim Executive of Belgium was supposed to break away from the Islam of the embassies," says Deputy (MR) Denis Ducarme, author of the anti-burka law. "For me it was a failure. It wasn't allowed self management. It's not even close to being recognized by the mosques. Of over a hundred Turkish mosques, more than half belong to Diyanet."
Denis Ducarme advocates new elections for the Executive and a census of the imams. We don't know where 15% of the imams come from, he says. These are traveling imams, passing from one European country to another, which is causing concern for the security of the state, following the attacks of 2001. The problem still exists.
Source: La Libre (French)