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Morocco ready to train imams in Europe to counter extremism

Abdelhak El Khiam, the head of the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations [Infomédiaire Maroc‏/Twitter]

Abdelhak El Khiam, the head of the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), has confirmed Morocco’s readiness to help train imams in Europe in order to prevent extremism.

Speaking to the Financial Times, the Moroccan anti-terrorism chief explained how Rabat has expressed its willingness to train the imams on the Maliki school of thought in Islam which is prevalent in the country and across North Africa.

El Khiam blamed the religious vacuum in Europe for creating extremists who have exploited it for their own gains. The void must be filled with the proper institutionalised discourse, the official said.

The practice of religion should be institutionalised in all countries, and by this I mean there should be institutions which take an interest in monitoring religious discourse in mosques.

In Morocco, religious discourse is mainly controlled by the state with carefully supervised material taught that is in line with government guidelines.

“It is not possible for any imam to preach his sermon without it being reviewed by the council to see if it conforms to tolerant Islamic precepts and is not hard-line.”

Read more: Morocco to rehabilitate ‘repentant’ Islamists

Since the Morocco was struck by a number of terror attacks, officials have begun a counter-terrorism strategy for Moroccans living abroad in order to prevent them falling prey to radicalism.

“To further confront this new phenomenon we have to try to follow those people. The Kingdom and all other countries which have subjects in Western countries have to develop new strategies and new measures,” El Khiam said.

Over the years Morocco has developed a strategy based on enhancing security and tackling roots of extremism by focusing on reintegration strategies and reforms in education and religious teaching that is influenced by “moderate” views.

As a result religious institutions have been set up to teach local and foreign imams in countries like France which signed a deal with Morocco which will come into effect next year.

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