Morocco Begins Construction of New Regional Training Center for Religious Leaders
* Imam Training Facility to Promote Open, Moderate Form of Islam *
Washington, DC (May 14, 2014) — King Mohammed VI on Monday presided over the groundbreaking for a religious training institution aimed at instilling the values of Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam in the next generation of Muslim religious leaders (imams) and preachers (morchidines and morchidates) from across the region. The Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates will welcome students from Morocco, Africa, and the Middle East, and is a key element in Morocco’s ongoing efforts to provide a shield against extremism by promoting religious moderation and tolerance in the region, and instilling a culture of understanding and dialogue across faiths.
The project launch comes just a few months after Morocco signed an accord with Mali to train 500 imams. Since then, several other countries in the region have requested similar training programs in Morocco. The new institute will train imams from Mali, Libya, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, and the Maldives on a modern campus of more than seven square acres, and will include a pedagogical and administrative department, housing and dining facilities, as well as recreational facilities.
Morocco first began its innovative program to train morchidates in 2006, as part of a comprehensive “counter-radicalization” strategy following the 2003 bombings in Casablanca. In addition to counseling against extremism by using religion itself, the strategy aimed to provide more empowerment and economic opportunities, including for youth. At the direction of King Mohammed VI and under the leadership of the Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs, women morchidates were trained to work with imams in mosques and communities across Morocco providing counsel and “spiritual security” to counter the potential appeal of extremists. The program was recognized as “pioneering” by the US State Department’s 2009 report on terrorism.
During his visit to Morocco last month, Secretary of State John Kerry praised King Mohammed VI and Morocco for “playing an essential leadership role” in the region, noting that Morocco “plays a very important role in facing extremism, and it also disseminates cooperation with African countries in the religious domain at a moment where Africa needs this spiritual support to face terrorism based on these values, the values of tolerance.”
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