Washington, DC, March 27, 2015 (MACP) — On Friday, March 27, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates in the capital, Rabat. The religious training center aims to instill the values of Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam, based on the Maliki rite and Sunni Sufism, in the next generation of Muslim religious leaders (imams) and preachers (morchidines and morchidates) from across the region and the world.
The center is a key element in Morocco’s ongoing efforts to promote religious moderation and tolerance as a shield against extremism in the region. Since late 2013, Morocco has signed accords to train imams from a number of countries across Africa and Europe, including Mali, Libya, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, the Maldives, and most recently Belgium. In addition to the Moroccan students enrolled—including 150 imams and morchidines and 100 morchidates, the Institute currently hosts 447 foreign students. 212 are from Mali, 37 from Tunisia, 100 from Guinea Conakry, 75 from Côte d’Ivoire, and 23 from France.
The new institute, construction of which began in May 2014, has the capacity to train up to 1,000 students at a time on a modern campus of more than seven square acres that includes a library, a mosque, 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 social services 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.
In a visit to Morocco in April 2014, 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.”
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
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