afrol News, 4 May - Contrary to traditions, but not to Islam, fifty young women preachers today graduated in Rabat, the Moroccan capital. The "mourchidates" will work as preachers, giving most religious services within Islam, except leading the important Friday prayer. The government emphasises on the need for gender equality and developing a tolerant and modern Islam, thus fighting extremism.
Ahmed Toufiq, Morocco's Minister of Islamic Affairs, personally received the young woman preachers during their graduation ceremony today. While dwelling on advices to serve the world religion in a proper way and being "aware of their responsibility", Minister Toufiq also had a clear political message to the graduated preachers: They needed to be watchful against "the intrusion" by foreign extremists trying to undermine Morocco's more tolerant Muslim traditions.
The state education of "mourchidates" is unique in the Muslim world and is well in line with the modernising policies of Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The King has especially been noted for two things - gender equality reforms and the fight against Islamist movements. Both issues were ripe as he inherited the throne in 1999. Moroccan women were by distance the most oppressed in North Africa and Islamist groups were preparing for an attack on the increasingly unpopular monarchy.
Today's ceremony is a clear sign to Moroccans that government has managed to turn these two negative trends. Moroccan women now are protected by more modern family and gender legislation and women are seen more frequently in politics and business. Only in religion, traditional values had so far stopped a greater participation of women.
The government therefore also praised the graduation of the 50 "mourchidates" as "part of a large-scale reform of the religious field" in the North African kingdom. "The move is aimed at reinforcing religious orientation in the mosques," Minister Toufiq said at the ceremony.
The ceremony also included the graduation of 150 male imams, which will keep their monopoly of the Friday prayers. Both the men and the women participated in a twelve-month training course at the Rabat university. Studies are open to men and women holding bachelor degrees, and according to a royal decree, 150 imams and 50 woman preachers will be educated according to the programme each year.
According to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the training had included knowledge of the Islamic "Shari' a laws and of social and cultural aspects" of Islam. Further, students are taught foreign languages - mainly Arabic - social psychology and data processing, in addition to religious research, the art of giving religious sermons and speeches and modes of dialogue, according to the Ministry.
The "unprecedented education" clearly aims at making Morocco more independent of foreign preachers and imams, which are more difficult to control and often bring values alien to the kingdom. The Rabat government hopes that the education programme will contribute to the spread of a modern and moderate form of Islam in the country, thus increasingly marginalising Islamist preachers, who often are of a foreign origin.
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