Muslim revolutionaries.
Subject: Women, Muslim (Training)
Islam (Functionaries)
Islam (Demographic aspects)
Pub Date: 06/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: June, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 280 Personnel administration; 970 Government domestic functions
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Morocco Geographic Name: Morocco Geographic Code: 6MORO Morocco
Accession Number: 184550019
Full Text: The Moroccan government has begun to train women as religious leaders in a move to counter extremist interpretations of Islam and spread a more balanced and tolerant version of this religion.


In May of 2006, a normally all-male seminary graduated its first class of murshidats, female spiritual guides. The fifty newly trained women were assigned to mosques throughout the capital city of Rabat to carry out their mission: answering religious questions, improving literacy programmes, and providing practical guidance on the Mudawwana, the recently-reformed family law which now grants women equal rights in marriage, divorce and the ownership of property.

Women murshidats are empowered to do everything that the male clergy does, except lead Friday prayers, the most sacred of ceremonies. This new phenomenon, unprecedented in the Arab world, is part and parcel of the sweeping political and social changes that Morocco has undergone in the past decade under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, who is both head of state and 'Commander of the Faithful'.

Moroccan women have responded with both praise and skepticism on this new state mandated shift. One such skeptic is Nadia Yassine, a prominent leader in the Islamist movement. Discounting the murshidats as "civil servants who serve as window dressing for the King's agenda," she rejects the autocratic rule of the Monarchy and its pro-western orientation. She has called for a switch to a non-autocratic, Islamic Republic. For Yassine, Muslim women will only be liberated through a return to the original teachings of the Prophet and not by imitating a Western model of liberation.

Muslim feminists, on the other hand, support a more moderate interpretation of the Koran. They believe an interpretation set forth by men will only keep women away from the centres of power. For them, a murshidat 's role is not simply to practise religion, but to guide the way society is run. Having women run mosques is, therefore, crucial and potentially socially transformative. While murshidats do not necessarily see themselves as political reformers, feminists point to their symbolic importance.


Source: International Museum of Women
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