In May, beside 150 male imams, 50 female preachers graduated in Morocco after a 12-month long training course. While only males will continue to act as imams (i.e. to lead congregational prayer), female preachers (murshidat or guides) will especially turn their efforts toward women and children.
They are expected to focus on poor classes in areas seen as a fertile ground for extremism, reports AFP (April 28). In the context of the fight against radical Islamic trends, female preachers will receive a monthly salary from the State. They will lead religious discussions as well as give lessons and provide moral support. Most of them are reported to hold university degrees beside their religious training (AKI, May 15).
The emergence of female preachers has received mixed reactions from Moroccan religious and political Islamist circles: some are positive toward the initiative, while others see it as contrary to Islam and bound to have only a limited impact. The initiative should be seen in a wider context than the mere fight against extremism: it also reflects a trend of women finding a larger public role in Moroccan civil society, reports BBC (May 4). King Mohammed VI had already given indications of his intent to encourage such developments: during Ramadan 2004, he had invited a female academic to preach on family issues to members of the royal court and of government, according to Neue Zuercher Zeitung, (May 30).– By Jean-Francois Mayer