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At the meeting of The Higher Council of Ulemas held in Morocco on September 27th, King Mohammed VI announced a series of measures aimed at reforming religious sector in the country.
The restructuring plan affects the council, imams and mosques in Morocco and even the Moroccan community living abroad.
According to the plan, the government will create more local councils for ulemas so that each region has its own council and representation. This measure, the government said, shows its desire to consider the specific customs and needs of those living in each region.
There will be 69 councils instead of the current 30.
According to the sovereign, the goal is to help the councils to "contribute to strengthening the nation's spiritual security, ensuring the preservation of their religious doctrine, which draws on tolerant Sunni Islam."
Ulemas will now be available everywhere, "to guide people and to combat the misleading allegations being peddled by those holding extremist views," the sovereign said.
This is the second round of reforms since the reforms of the Islamic affairs ministry and revision of the legislation concerning places of worship and the modernisation of the teaching of Islam in Morocco in 2004.
Mohamed Bouterbouch, chairman of the Kénitra regional council, said that members of his council shape the spiritual life of Muslims through healthy religious enlightenment which respects Morocco's Islamic traditions. The council holds meetings in mosques, people's homes, women's shelters and universities, "so that our voice can be heard by all Muslims," he said.
The reforms also target the role the mosques play in the spiritual and educational life of people.
The measures encourage the legal construction of these religious buildings, particularly with 50% VAT exemption, and with the consolidation of the role they are expected to fulfil as places of worship, guidance and education. There is also a desire to promote state assistance for the clergy. Therefore, the government is launching a program with a budget of 200 million dirhams to train imams and improve their doctrinal awareness and professionalism.
For Moroccans living in Europe, the government created an 18-member council of ulemas to serve as a local council.
"The council will protect the Moroccan identity and faith against integrist and extremist impulses," said Taher Tijkani, chairman of the council. Tijkani said that the council will have the same prerogatives as those in Morocco, and will adapt to the particular situation of the Moroccan community abroad.
Taj Eddine Berrada, a professor in Islamic studies, said the new reforms will give a new dynamic to the restructuring of organised religion.
"Rolling out ulema councils is aimed at halting the drift in organised religion demonstrated by the recent fatwa declared by the man calling himself Maghraoui," he said.
Bassima Nourani, a student, said that through this reform the State hopes to further institutionalise religion.
"A large part of this institutionalisation has been completed," Nourani said.
"I believe this is a good way to fight extremism. But I'm worried that the state could use this initiative to spread non-religious messages."