Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco to Train Malian Imams

By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat - 23/09/2013

In a move to promote tolerance and help rebuild Mali, Morocco will provide training to 500 imams from the war-torn country.

Moroccan Islamic Affairs Minister Ahmed Toufik and Malian Territorial Administration Minister Moussa Sinko Coulibaly signed the agreement Friday (September 20th) in Bamako.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco and new Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta attended the ceremony.

Speaking at the new Malian president's investiture ceremony last Thursday, the Moroccan sovereign addressed the training agreement.

"Any co-ordinated international action which does not attach the necessary importance to cultural and religious aspects will be doomed to failure," the monarch said. "The partnership that the kingdom intends to offer in the physical and spiritual reconstruction of Mali is firmly rooted in that philosophy."

"It is essential that we repair the physical destruction and heal symbolic wounds by repairing the tombs, restoring and preserving the manuscripts and revitalising the country's socio-cultural life," he added.

The programme aims to meet an urgent social and religious need, and is being offered in response to a request from the Malian state, according to Toufik. Morocco stands ready to support the development of peace and rule of law in Mali, he added.

According to Moroccan Minister for Islamic Affairs and Habous, Ahmed Toufik, the imams' training will meet an urgent social and religious need by Mali.

He went on to say that Morocco has always been ready to support the development of peace and the establishment of the rule of law and conditions for a decent life.

"As His Majesty King Mohammed VI pointed out, no one can now omit the spiritual aspect from the efforts for development, security and building the future," the minister said.

This partnership in the religious domain is aimed at promoting the values of peace and tolerance, particularly in Mali which has borne the full brunt of the horrors of terrorism and extremism, sociologist Jalal Sebbar said.

"Mali needs to spread the values of tolerance among its people," he explained. "The fight against fundamentalist teaching can only be won through effective teaching for religious leaders to enable them to explain the real values of Islam."

Imam and former MP Abdelbari Zemzemi shared the view. "Morocco is known of the openness of its religious institutions, including those responsible for training," he said. "It must be pointed out that the Malikite rite practised in Morocco is far removed from extremism,' the imam added.

"Spreading the values of openness will enable Mali to deal with the fundamentalist philosophy of certain groups," Zemzemi added.

Mehdi Bekkali, a teacher of Islamic education, said, "Religious co-operation is paramount in countering the erroneous ideas which have become fixed in the minds of some members of the public."

"The effort, must take place in parallel with development initiatives and work to eliminate poverty," he told Magharebia.

"There's nothing better than religious training for combating the arguments put forward by the obscurantists and enlightening the public about their rights and responsibilities," he added.

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