Monday, July 19, 2004

Morocco Fights Wahhabi Islam

Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article about that country's struggle to modernize Islam, while at the same time not modernizing too fast, which would drive muslims towards hardline Wahhabi imams. In a country where the state and religion are intimately interweaven, through Ulema councils which approve sermons and teachings, Wahhabi Islam is gaining ground through satellite-broadcast sermons, out of Saudi Arabia for instance.

The article points out, by mouth of Islam specialist Mohamed Darif, that the problem is deeply rooted:

But while there is strong political will to target the foreign Wahhabi doctrine, analysts say a strict control of mosques cannot totally prevent the spread of radicalism.

"It's not enough to control mosques to control [Wahhabism]," argues Mr. Darif. "The problem of the mosques is a fake problem. If we could put an end to this Islamist rise through the control of mosques, we would have done it [way before]."

The key issue today is how to control clerics without discrediting their state-sanctioned speech and frustrating the population.

If you exercise too much control, "you loose the commitment, the charisma. It is a problem posed to all religions. There's an equilibrium that has to be found," says Mohamed Tozy, a university professor and an expert on political Islam.
To me, this goes directly to the heart of the problem. For all these years, governments in the Arab world have used religion as a way to deflect criticism, giving its citizens targets for its pent up frustrations with domestic corruption and the lack of liberties, that now when these governments (and Morocco is a leading example) are trying to bring liberty to their people, they are realizing that they have corrupted their peoples completely, to the point that they are demanding a hardline form of Islam, or lose the control over religion completely and let the Wahhabis take over.

As a side note, it also must put the Moroccan government into -for us awkward- situations in which they must decide what to allow for and what not in the traditionally heavily anti-Western and anti-Semitic Friday sermons.

Read the whole article.