State Sponsors Religious Teaching

The king’s initiatives include the creation a year ago of the Mohammed VI Quran radio station that broadcasts religious programs, and the Assadisa Islamic satellite TV station.

The Council of Religious Scholars, established by the king two years ago, has been issuing religious edicts on the most pressing questions of the 21st century – and, surprisingly, they’ve been well-received by both young people and hardened Islamists.

Taoufiq said 2,000 of Morocco’s more than 24,000 mosques will be equipped with TV sets in the comings weeks. Already, the ministry’s Web site enables the faithful to chat with religious scholars at 1,000 key mosques in the country.

The pioneer group of morchidat, who finished a yearlong course in Islamic law, philosophy and the history of religions in early April, was trained to give basic religious instructions in mosques and provide support in prisons, hospitals and schools. Their salary is about $500 a month.

Applicants for the course must have a bachelor’s degree and be under 45. Male applicants must know the Quran by heart, while female applicants should know at least half of it.

Although it is a first for Morocco – which like many other Muslim countries has shunned the rise of women to senior religious positions – Egypt and Iran have seen an increase in female scholars of Islam.

Even though there are no restrictions in Islam for women to become religious scholars, the male-dominated Muslim societies have generally disputed that women should have a senior position. Any woman wishing to be an imam can lead prayers only for a group of women, not for men.

Fatima Titi, 24, said she was very excited to become a religious guide.

"I am looking forward to portraying a good image of Islam, one that’s forgiving and promotes peace," she said.