Bureaucratizing Islam: Morocco and the War on Terror

BUREAUCRATIZING ISLAM
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 Bureaucratizing Islam
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288
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BUREAUCRATIZING ISLAM – Book Sample

Joining the War on Terror – BUREAUCRATIZING ISLAM

In 2004, Morocco began a complete reform of religious policy. The reforms were far-reaching and invasive. They included a set of diverse and brand-new religious institutions, such as the savvy religious think tank, the Mohammedan League of Religious Scholars.

The reforms also brought changes to the councils of religious scholars who advise the monarchy and citizens, alterations to the Islamic education curricula for the public schools, reforms of existing educational institutions, and the creation of new ones.

The reforms sought to shape public discourse through media, including the development of a religious TV station and a religious radio station. The reforms reached beyond Morocco’s borders as the state attempted to spread official “Moroccan Islam” to other states in North and West Africa.

Collectively, these reforms have bureaucratized Islam in Morocco, placing critical decisions about religious practice and belief in the hands of people employed by the state. Many of these individuals do not pos-sess training in classical Islamic sciences; they are better understood as bureaucrats.

The conventional story, as told by the Moroccan state, describes these reforms as a response to the War on Terror – a war that originated in the United States, but in which Moroccan policy makers have viewed themselves as key participants since the country experienced a terrorist attack in 2003.

 According to Moroccan policy makers, state control of public religion is a national security imperative – a form of “spiritual security.” In analyzing recent religious reforms, many observers take the state’s word at face value, assuming that reforms are intended to curb religious extremism. This book approaches Morocco’s reforms to the religious sphere with a more critical eye, treating them as some-thing in need of explanation, rather than as an obvious response to religious extremism.

Fears of Islamic extremism did contribute to the Moroccan state’s reform efforts. Nevertheless, as I detail in this book, this explanation

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