Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges

Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges

Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges

Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges


In Morocco, Marvine Howe, a former correspondent for The New York Times, presents an incisive and comprehensive review of the Moroccan kingdom and its people, past and present. She provides a vivid and frank portrait of late King Hassan, whom she knew personally and credits with laying the foundations of a modern, pro-Western state and analyzes the pressures his successor, King Mohammed VI has come under to transform the autocratic monarchy into a full-fledged democracy. Howe addresses emerging issues and problems--equal rights for women, elimination of corruption and correction of glaring economic and social disparities--and asks the fundamental question: can this ancient Muslim kingdom embrace western democracy in an era of deepening divisions between the Islamic world and the West?


The storied land of kasbahs and palaces, mosques and marabouts, veiled women and hooded men, Islamic rituals and feudal intrigue is in the midst of upheaval. From the remote hamlets of the High Atlas to oases on the edge of the Sahara, from the halls of the medieval Karaouyine University in Fez to the grimmest shantytowns around Casablanca, there's an urgent hunger in Morocco for the good things of modern times, as flaunted daily on television and the Internet.

Moroccans are deeply aware of their identity as descendants of the great Muslim empires that ruled Iberia and much of northern Africa in the Middle Ages. They are for the most part devoted to their monarchy, which has ruled for more than 1,200 years. There are, however, a growing number of voices in the independent press and human rights organizations, among scholars, businesspeople, professionals, and politicians, that are calling for representative government, accountability, and other democratic reforms.

There is also an Islamist awakening on university campuses, in some political circles, and among ordinary Moroccans, much like that which has taken place elsewhere in the Muslim world, including Iran and even secular Turkey. Muslim activists are looking to political Islam as an alternative to Western-style politics, which have failed to satisfy many people's aspirations for basic dignity, justice, and well-being.

In general, the Islamist movement in Morocco has chosen to express itself through nonviolent means. There have been, however, angry fetwas by a few exalted Islamic preachers against Western secularism, fiery audiotapes and articles denouncing Western immorality, and street demonstrations in solidarity with Muslim victims of Western terrorism. But Moroccans have al-

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