Moroccan royal decree forbids political activity for imams

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Article Summary
The recently issued royal decree in Morocco raised considerable controversy about the separation between religion and politics.

In a July 9 press conference, Morocco's minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed al-Tawfiq, went over the last dahir [royal decree] prohibiting imams from engaging in any political and union activity.

The press conference, held at the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs by the minister himself, explained the dahir on the organization of tasks and defined the situation of religious officers. This was an opportunity for him to go back over various issues raised by the national and international press about banning imams from any political and union activity.

Minister Tawfiq said, “The bans are not new, they are just to remind [people] of the practice.” According to him, the separation between religion and politics for imams is an urgent matter. He said, “We cannot have imams leading prayers and politically leading priors. I do not fear that religion is corrupted by politics, but that politics is. As for religion, we do not have to be afraid. It has enough experience and can adapt.”

The imams do not have to give their opinion

Returning to the dahir, Tawfiq wanted to ensure that “beyond the bans, the dahir brings great news.”

Here, he insinuated in particular to the definition of religious officials, which is specific to the powers that are now clarified and the rights and obligations of religious officials. Moreover, he recalled "the establishment of a national commission to receive petitions and complaints from religious officials."

In addition to the ban, the fact that imams were not consulted was also criticized by religious associations and officials, particularly their national league. The minister who was interviewed by Telquel.ma did not appreciate the controversy. He said, “The dahir organizes the religious officials and they do not have the right to give their opinion in its formulation.”

The king has the absolute right to issue this dahir according to Article 41, which provides that “the king practices, through dahirs, his inherent religious privileges as the commander of the believers that are exclusively granted to him by virtue of this article.”

An imam is neutral by nature

When asked about the timing of issuance of this dahir, which coincides with the upcoming communal elections, the minister refuted that there was any connection between the two events, saying, “There is no connection whatsoever and it would be demeaning for the dahir to think about that.” Thus he confirmed that it is not in the purpose of silencing the imams and the religious officials from the Justice and Development Party.

Moreover, the minister returned to the accusations of manipulations of Imams by stating, “It is not customary for the ministry to distribute to the imams the sermons they have to give.”

He emphasized certain exceptions, adding, “However, we sometimes do that when a ministry asks us, like the Ministry of Health for example, to launch a campaign for vaccination.” To conclude, Tawfiq expressed his hopes, saying, “A day will come when everyone will realize that there is no point in pressuring an imam. An imam is neutral by nature.”

Found in: waqf, royalty, morocco, islam, imam
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