Defending Islamic Education: War on Terror discourse and religious education in twenty-first century Morocco
abstract
How does War on Terror discourse impact religious education curricula in Muslim societies? How do supporters of Islamic education defend the subject in light of intense local and international scrutiny? What do initial reforms to public school curricula suggest about the long-term impact of the War on Terror on the state's role in the transmission of Islamic knowledge? This article examines these questions in the case of Morocco, where in 2003, members of Salafia Jihadia bombed multiple sites in Casablanca. Following the violence, the Moroccan monarchy called for the reform of the religious field, singling out the country's Islamic education curricula as in need of renewal. Several constituencies resisted the call for reform, including Islamic education teachers and associations. Though they showed deference to the monarchy, they also argued that the curriculum did not cause violence, but rather ‘vaccinates’ youth against terrorism. Through interviews and archival research, this article reconstructs the defence of Islamic education marshalled by its supporters and assesses its impact on resulting curricula. I find that the Ministry of Education acted with deference to the Islamic education teachers' demands, accelerating reforms already underway, rather than rewriting curricula. Unexpectedly, the Ministry made more substantial changes to ‘secular’ school subjects. The Moroccan case suggests that War on Terror discourse influences educational policy in Muslim societies, though these processes are shaped by pre-existing reforms and the activities of local activists.