Salafi Trends in Morocco

Analysis, posted 07.02.2015, from Morocco, in:
Prominent Salafi leaders, following the 20 February Movement in 2011 in Morocco, have been shifting their stances from the traditional Salafi paradigm. Instead of shunning democracy, Salafi leaders have been joining political parties and backing away from some of their more extreme views. Trends within the Salafi movement in Morocco include traditionalists like Sheikh Mohammed Maghraoui, one of the older and more well known Salafi leaders who was imprisoned for issuing a fatwa allowing for girls who are as young as nine to marry, now heads an NGO for religious education and has advocated for more political involvement. Reformers like Mohammed Al Fizazi, one of the more radical Salafi clerics was condemned to prison for 30 years following his involvement in the Casablanca bombings in 2003, now seeks to form his own political party. Others, like Abdelkarim Chadli, a well known Jihadist Salafi who was imprisoned in 2003, have even joined existing political parties. These trends can be broken down into four main categories: Traditionalists, Political minded thinkers, The Haraki (movement), and Salafi-Jihadi prisoners. Traditionalists tend to be less inclined toward political activism, but do participate in some fashion. Maghraoui now encourages those who will listen to vote. Political minds, like Al Fizazi, who is trying to form his own political party has made alliances with the PJD, but is receiving some push back from more traditional Salafis. Others, like Abou Hafs and Hassan Kettani focus more on social programs to help young people. Finally, the jihadi prisoners network made up of organizations like the Joint Commitee for the Defense of Islamist Detainees, or the Karama Human Rights Forum work actively to release more Salafis from jail based on promises of less extremism and renunciation of violence. While more political minded Salafis, like Al Fizazi, or Chadli joining the political process are indicators that the Salafi movement in Morocco is shifting fundamentally, other opposing trends are also emerging. The formation of Ansar al-Sharia in 2012 is one such group that opposes the perceived secularization of more moderate political trends, and advocates their own version of Islam that is more in line with traditional Salafi thinking. Finally, while these are some broad trends that can be seen in Moroccan society, the fact that Salafis have not traditionally been politically active means that social organization and order are limited. It is difficult to say with certainty that Salafist ideology is shifting at a core level, however prominent leaders are showing efforts in changing the traditional narrative.