The Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs said it had dispatched nine female preachers to five European countries and Canada as part of a Ramadan campaign to reach out to Moroccan expatriate communities, especially women, in the West.
The Ministry said the move is part of its efforts to provide spiritual support to Moroccans abroad during the holy month in hopes of protecting them from "delinquent" discourses in the West and to preserve their national heritage.
The preachers will answer religious and intimate questions and offer spiritual support to Moroccan women who may lack such resources in their adopted home countries.
Avoiding cultural dissolution
Preacher and Islamic researcher Dr. Mohamed Bolouz praised the initiative and said that Muslim communities in the West are in dire need of support from Islamic countries to preserve their identity and prevent their gradual dissolution into the host cultures.
"Women are also more capable of understanding women's needs and talking to them about issues they are embarrassed to bring up with male preachers," Bolouz told AlArabiya.net in an interview.
Women have gained greater rights in religions affairs since King Mohammed VI came to power in 1999, according to journalist Abdalawi Lekhlafa.
Lekhlafa said it would've been better if this initiative was taken through the Organization of the Islamic Conference so that the preachers could receive the appropriate training.
"Individual initiatives are usually temporary and don't manage to face challenges like those Morocco is going through," Lekhlafa told AlArabiya.net.
Training and tolerance
Bolouz also noted the improtance of ensuring proper training for the female preachers, but saying that this project is only a small part of the religious and cultural needs of Moroccan communities abroad and
"The Ministry also has to make sure that preachers are well-qualified in terms of education, ethics, and communication skills,” said Bolouz.
He added that Moroccan embassies and consulates as well as mosques and Islamic centers in Western countries must participate in order for the initiative to succeed, and recommended the project be evaluated annually.
The project has another dimension in terms of influencing the way Moroccans are perceived abroad, Rashid Moqtader, an expert on Islamic movements in Morocco, told AlArabiya.net. He noted the political and media dimensions of the initiative, which seeks to portray Morocco as more tolerant that other Muslim countries, especially with respect to human rights and feminist organizations.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)