The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, maintains an image of influential monarch on the political, social, but also religious scene. "The Commander of the Faithful" has woven, over the years, his religious power.
The religious institutions controlled by the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, are numerous. They direct the interpretation of texts, the dissemination of the Koran, theological studies – psalmody and exegesis included – but also the political influence of religion.
In 2004, the essayist Bernard Cubertafond wrote a book entitled “Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful to the aid of secularism”. He evoked the control of the Moroccan monarch on religious practice in the kingdom. It was then, shortly after the terrorist attacks in Casablanca, to explain how Mohammed VI had mastered the situation through legislation and interpretations of religious texts.
A simple read? Probably, but a reading in the era of time, above all. The writer then compared the Moroccan religious reform to the French law on the headscarf. But what Cubertafond discovered by observing the religious reforms of Mohammed VI through a Western prism was their socio-political component. Because, in Morocco, the debate has never been religious, but rather social on the side of the populations, and political on the side of the monarchy.
Eighteen years later, it is notably, and above all, through religious institutions that Mohammed VI, often accused of absenteeism, maintains this unshakable link which confirms his supremacy over the daily lives of Moroccans.
How to reform a religion? The Moroccan solution
The religious reforms of Mohammed VI were numerous. In the 2000s, it was a question of reactivating the supervision of the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs over the imams. Supervision in due form over the training of preachers, the interpretation of texts and the separation of religion and politics.
In a way, Mohammed VI established a form of Moroccan Anglicanism of Islam. In the short term, he wanted to normalize religion in order to avoid in Morocco the confusion between Islam and terrorism which had caused the dark decade in Algeria, and the spread of fundamentalism in other Arab-Muslim countries.
Then came the institutions affiliated with the supervising ministry: first the new Superior Council of Ulemas in 2009. , carry out the mission that we have entrusted to them in terms of preaching, that of awareness and orientation, “said the Moroccan king at the time.
Then, this gave way to the “reorganization” of Dar Al-Hadith Al-Hassania for Islamic studies, by submitting it to the new Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams Morchidines and Morchidates. The male and female format in the description of the imams was deliberate, and it was mainly to reinforce the Sufi current. For Mohammed VI, including half of the people - women - in the religious hierarchy was an important act in 2019, when reviving the Sufi brotherhoods of the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya. But in order to distinguish themselves from Senegal or Algeria, the training of preachers also concerned women.
Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful: a well-crafted storytelling
After the establishment of these institutions, endowed with colossal funding, exceeding that of their supervisory ministry and emanating directly from the Royal Treasury, the kingdom embarked on a major marketing operation. Since 2004, the Mohammed VI Holy Quran radio has been broadcasting religious programs 24 hours a day. And with a 24% market share, it is by far the most listened to radio in Morocco. This medium remains, in Morocco, the most frequented by the population, far ahead of television and social media.
Then, the hegemony of this "Moroccan Islam" was to become international. Thus, the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Oulema was born in 2017. There are more than 1 imams from all over Africa obtaining scholarships in Morocco, housed, fed and laundered by the foundation. Among the latter, a hundred women. All these little people study in Moroccan universities, where it is made clear to them that “Moroccan Islam” is the way to salvation.
All these measures, carefully attributed to the King of Morocco, would be, according to the Moroccan media, "concrete proof that alongside the modernization of the Kingdom, the King has also taken care to reserve in his vision of the Morocco of tomorrow, a fundamental place for religion, to preserve and reinforce the image of a modern Kingdom, advocating a moderate Islam".
Well-crafted storytelling which reinforces both the image of a king who transcends politics, but also that of a "Commander of the Faithful" in action. An image necessary for popular support for the palace's hegemony over national politics.