Report of the Religious Situation in Morocco
The second issue of the Report of the Religious Situation in Morocco (2009/2010) (henceforth Report), as presented by the Moroccan Center for Contemporary Studies and Research (MCCSR), aims to promote research on the Moroccan religious sphere from the perspective of social sciences. It also allows describing, analyzing and forecasting the religious situation in Morocco, and sharing more accurate, precise knowledge with different stakeholders, with the ultimate goal of affecting decision-makers and public policies in that field.
The period between the publication of the Report’s first issue (2007-2008) and today (early 2013) has enabled the researchers at MCCSR to learn not only from the scientific accumulation in the domain but also from the meetings they have held with those involved in religion affairs, academia and decision-makers. This has pushed the discussions further and deeper towards a better understanding of the intersections in the religious situation in Morocco. Thus, the scope for recognizing new dimensions in the religious situation has become wider and the analytical and explanatory ability of the Report has become more rigorous.
Starting from the methodological and empirical remarks from within and outside MCCSR, the research team has been more analytical in dimension, especially by avoiding some of the pitfalls that characterized the first report.
As such, the main conclusions of the Report came as follows:
Conceptual and Methodological Framework of the Report
The Report adopts an operational approach that depends on the ‘case study’ method, since its qualitative characteristics allow both delimiting the problem under study within its different dimensions and utilizing quantitative data for analysis. The Report also adheres to systematic analysis as a basis to explore and try to understand the behaviors of different actors in the religious sphere, their interrelations, the struggle or cooperation that occur between them, and the interactions that take place between the individual behavior and the religious institutions that affect religiosity in the country. The Report starts from specifying a matrix of actors that affect religious dynamics in Morocco. Then, a number of key words are operationalized. The four words central to the description and analysis of the religious situation in the Report are: religion, religiosity, values and religious actor.
Each concept of the four relates to a particular chapter in the Report. The term Religion relates directly to the first chapter which deals with the religious reality and its manifestations; religious actor, as the second chapter details, refers to official actors (faithful commandership that the monarch represents, Ministry of Religious Affairs, councils of ulama, etc) and civil ones (religious movements, Sufist Trends, etc). The two remaining concepts, namely religiosity and values hold paramount importance for the third chapter that tackles the challenges to religiosity, and the fourth one that deals with the interactions between religiosity, values and key fields (politics, economy, culture, etc) in the public sphere.
As well, the Report benefits from the theoretical framework that the Alahram Center for Strategic Studies’ Report of the Religious Situation in Egypt (1995-1996) adopts. The Egyptian report later on changed into a guidebook for religious movements. Besides, the Report hinges upon the methodological expertise that has accumulated from quantitative studies and sociological fieldwork on religion and religiosity in Morocco. It equally learns from the pitfalls and shortcomings of earlier studies. Therefore, the resources of the Report are mainly three types: 1. Official and non-official documents, reports and statistics; 2. Scientific studies about religion in Morocco; and 3. Interviews with religious actors. Together, they have been categorized into central and branch indicators to allow a holistic account of the religious situation.
Depending on the expertise accumulated within MCCSR, the Report transcends the limitations of description that was the main purpose of the first issue. The Report starts from observing and describing religious ‘reality’ to opt for a systematic, structural analysis that tries to understand the relation within the religious sphere first, and between the religious, economic, political and cultural spheres, secondly. Analysis is meant to pave the way for forthcoming issues of the Report to anticipate future prospects and possible alterations in the religious public sphere. Yet, talking about explanation and anticipation in religion is posited with necessary methodological and epistemological cautions. That’s why the Report attempts to be as precise as possible in dealing with the data observed and gathered, without claiming utter objectiveness.
The Report comprises 363 pages, while its research team members specialize in various disciplines ranging from social, political, linguistic and Islamic studies. A group of journalists contributed to the realisation of the Report as well. The Report is divided into five chapters.
Chapter one: the Religious Reality in Morocco
This chapter tries to monitor the general religious orientations of the Moroccan population and provide a preliminary image about their dynamics, based on the developments and findings of social studies. From the beginning, the chapter delves into the findings of a number of quantitative and qualitative studies on religiosity, identity and values in Morocco. The aim was to stop at a number of indicators of the development of practices and representations of religion and religiosity in recent years, which would allow diachronic and synchronic comparisons between the studies at hand. Also, the consideration of other studies as a starting point purports to give a clearer idea about how other researchers view the developments of religious life in Morocco in the two years the Report deals with (2009-2010). The studies are mainly four: one conducted by MCCSR about “Moroccan Youth and Religiosity”; the second conducted by Maryland University on “the Arab public opinion and issues of identity and values”; the third is a gallop poll conducted in 2010 which tries to approach religiosity through the effect of economy, and focuses on indicators related to confidence in institutions and practicing religious rituals; the fourth is conducted by Anna Lyndh Foundation in 2010 which deals with religious construction of children.
According to the study that MCCSR conducted, 47% of Moroccan youth perform prayer regularly, 59% of them women. The same study found out that the mosque imam is the main source of religious knowledge for 40% of Moroccan youth, followed by the family (23%).
In order to observe and explore the manifestations of religious orientations of Moroccans, the Report depends on eight indicators:
Building and visiting mosques form one of the key indicators of religiosity in Morocco, at the levels of the benefactor contribution to the building, regular attendance of mosques and the general attractiveness of mosque activities. Morocco is home to around 49.700 mosques, 18.300 of which are large congregation mosques while 9000 are gathering areas for prayer of the two religious feasts in Islam. Also, in 2009-2010, around 130 million Moroccan dirhams were dedicated to social support for mosque guardians; 860 million dirhams as annual grant for imams, 78 million dirhams for training and qualification of religious guardians and 19 million dirhams for caretakers of television sets within mosques. In 2009, a sum of 1.3 billion dirhams was specified for the national plan for upgrading mosques, while in 2010 a decree was issued to improve the social situation of mosque guardians.
Concerning the holy month of Ramadan, the Report notices a considerable growth in regular attendance of prayers, Koran group readings, benevolent activities and social solidarity through “Ramadan basket”. The number of religious lessons and programs that local ulama councils organize increases as well.
This pillar holds a special place in the life of Moroccans due to a large historical heritage and deeply-rooted traditions. The increasing readiness of Moroccans to pilgrim has pushed the ministry to resort to a drawing lot system. The Report stops at some of the challenges and pitfalls of this solution wherein the share of Morocco in hajj visitors is limited at 32.000 pilgrims annually, while applications rocketed from 120.000 in 2007 to 220.000 in 2009 and more than 270.000 in 2010. 15% of the seats have been reserved for the elderly.
The general observation is the parallel increase in fatwa seeking, orientation activities in mosques and Hassania annual religion lectures in front of the king.
This indicator is monitored by observing the activities and civil and official initiatives that promote different facets of caring for the Holy Koran and all schools and educational programs related to it.
The Report considers the steps of publicising religious books in different domains. The indicator grew, too, in the period under study. About 300 books saw light in 2009-2010 in different fields of religious knowledge; most of them (40) were produced by the Mohammadia League for Ulama.
A noteworthy initiative in 2009-2010, was gathering all official documents and resolutions related to endowment in one booklet. The guidebook also includes the different activities and initiatives that aimed to revivify endowment and improve its social benefit.
This indicator concerns the inclusion of Islamic financing in the Moroccan banking system and economy as a whole. The Report recognises and analyses its judicial changes, different types and the challenges its actualisation faces in the socio-economic fabric.
Chapter two: Religious Actors
In this part, the Report attempts to observe the performance of diverse actors and stakeholders in the religious sphere in Morocco. It also accounts for their trends and interactions in addition to how they affect the activities of society and the state alike. The religious sphere is formed of a matrix of actors who maintain diverse expectations, action pathways, levels of influence and rates of intervention and activeness. Thus, observing their abilities to impact different manifestations of religion, religiosity and the developments of the religious situation trajectories becomes of paramount importance. Within this framework, the Report accounts for the following actors: the institution of the faithful commandership, the institution of ulama, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Sufist groups and Islamic movements.
Chapter three: challenges to Religiosity in Morocco
Different factors, mainly nine as the Report demarcates them, challenge and deter the realization of the ‘standard model’ of religiosity in Morocco.
They include a number of subsidiary factors, especially adultery, human trafficking, extra-marital sexual relations, drugs, gambling, crimes and bribery in Morocco.
Its findings have resulted from the observation of Moroccan family life and the challenges it meets, particularly demographic changes, the effect of women exodus towards cities on the stability of families, how abortion is approached, ‘unwed mothers’, violence against women, and the influence of the Family Code changes on society, especially the noteworthy increase in the figures of divorce, and, finally, international interactions over the gender issue in Morocco.
Significant dynamism marked the Moroccan public sphere to denounce paedophilia, harassment and the abuse of children, reflected by the mounting number of events and incidents wherein the topic occupied the public opinion. Numerous newspapers allotted whole files, reports, article series and testimonies in special coverage of the issue. The Report also covers grassroots advocacy against child abuse and harassment via public statements and petitions.
The linguistic challenge held center stage in 2009-2010, and different socio-political, academic and civil actors tried to contribute to it. In 2009, the High Council of Education organized a conference on “Teaching and Learning Languages in Educational and Training Systems: Diagnostic and Forward-Looking Approaches”. Ever since, conferences, meetings and colloquia galore were organized around the country, trying to treat the linguistic question or some of its sub-branches, which implicitly, or explicitly thereof, incorporate the discussion over religion, identity, ethnicity, culture and plurality.
The educational arena was subject to much activeness and controversy in the period under study, since a number of phenomena went viral, sometimes at unprecedented rates, such as cheating in exams, drug dealing and addiction, bribery and harassment at school and sexual abuse of female students, which indicate serious alterations in the value system that govern the educational life in Morocco.
The Report tries to answer the following questions: what is the nature of the media environment in 2009-2010 Morocco? What is the media reality and who are its key players? What are the main developments of media activism vis-à-vis the identity politics and value system? And, what are the main concerns, future prospects of and serious challenges to the Moroccan media in the period under study?
The Report revisits the different measures taken by the public authorities concerning sectarian penetration that manifests mainly in the Iranian embassy’s continual attempts to spread Shiism, according to some Moroccan officials. The outcome is total rupture of relations between Morocco and Iran.
In 2009-2010 a stiff campaign targeted Morocco to spread Christianity. Proselytizing, though it is not new in Morocco, has moved from picking peripheral towns to proselytize via exploiting people’s poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, to focus more on children. The Moroccan authorities were pushed to take measures that caused national debates, but later on resulted in international misunderstanding when the issue religious freedoms in Morocco was triggered.
Normalizing the relationship with (Israel) was subject to ups and downs in the period under study. The steps taken were different in importance and danger on the social fabric and commitments of Morocco towards Palestine. Yet, the Report notes that the normalising penetrations were orchestrated, structured and included official, governmental and civil society attempts. The domains and manifestations of normalization were also different. They included politics, economy, culture, diplomacy, agriculture, art, tourism and NGO visit exchange. The relations were hidden or blunt depending the political atmosphere and level of awareness of anti-normalization activists.
Chapter four: interactions between the religious, the economic, the political and the cultural
In this chapter, the Report tries to follow the interactions between religion and other public spheres in Morocco, especially economy, politics and culture. It also attempts to understand the outcome of such interactions and effect on public opinion and discussions.
Transparency International reports have demonstrated that Morocco seriously suffers from corruption. Morocco ranked 89 and 85 in 2009 and 2010 consecutively on the corruption perceptions index, while corruption devours 2% of Moroccan GDP. Furthermore, the World Bank issued a report in June, 2009, which indicated that the absence of a culture of accountability seriously blocks development programs. It even leads to squandering public money and exacerbates the grip of bribery and embezzlement over the Moroccan economy, which shrinks enthusiasm to development programs.
A number of controversial issues haunted public discussions on the terms of reference for the identity of the Moroccan society and the role of religion in public life. The Report notes that discourses of secularism in Morocco are based on three facets: 1. Supremacism of international laws over local ones; 2. Separating religion from politics; and 3. Phobia of Islamists.
The Report tackles how political parties interacted with religious issues. In 2009-2010, around 133 MP written questions were addressed to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, compared to 177 that other sectors received. Equally, the report analyses the interactions between religion and security challenges, especially the relationship between the state and religious groups, how the issue of the-so-called “Salafist Jihadism” was handled, dissolving a number of sleeping cells that may be related to Al-Qaeda, advocacy and activism to defend the human rights of “Salafist Jihadists”, and, finally, banning the Civilisational Alternative Party and declining to allow the Al-Umma Party.
Chapter Five: Moroccan Jewry
In the last chapter, the Report stops at the significance of the death of two leading Moroccan Jews, namely Abraham Serfaty, militant and political activist, and Edmond Amran El Maleh, a thinker and novelist. Both were famous for opposing international Zionism and the Zionist policies in Palestine. Also, they both underwent the ordeal of suppression and exile during the leftist upheaval known as ‘plumb years’ in Morocco. After the crowning of King Mohammed VI, they came back to Morocco to settle and continue their struggle for different freedoms. In a sense, they represented how Moroccan Jews would contribute to the progress of the Moroccan social fabric.