Index / Religions
The totally dominating religion of Morocco is Islam, in the Sunni variant. Islam in Morocco is by definition headed by the king, as the royal family are sharifs; descendants of Muhammad, a claim that is widely accepted in Morocco as well as abroad.
Practices from earlier religions still exist, even if they have taken a Muslim cloak. This is the case of the holy person cults. Holy persons are in many cases referred to as marabout, whereas shrines are generally labelled "sidi" for male saints, and "lalla" for female saints. In some cases the sidis and lallas refer not to historical persons, but are redressed gods of pre-Islamic religions, but in other cases the sidis and lallas are very much historical Muslim individuals.
Mystical cults, collectively called Sufism, remain an important part of religious life in Morocco. Sufi groups have been more than religious communities, serving as organizations reaching deep into everyday life and representing alternative social structures through times of instability and weak central governance.
Islam in Morocco has long been confusing in the sense that conservative ideas has coexisted with liberal views on individual freedom, and women have been both restrained and strong. In recent years, Islamism has gained ground in Morocco, and its form of inflexible conservatism is quickly replacing the flexibility of traditional conservatism. Still, it must be noted that radical attitudes towards non-Muslims has a long history in Morocco.
Christianity is present, with about 100,000 adherents, counting peoples and families of French descent from colonial times, as well as more recent immigrants. There are several active all around churches in Morocco.
Judaism is the religion of Morocco with the longest history. Although there has been discrimination of Jews from the Muslim majority through the centuries (see Mellah), coexistence in the 20th century improved drastically, much aided by the French presence. When Moroccan Jews left for the new state of Israel in the middle of the 20th century, there wass less pressure for them to leave than what was the case in many other Muslim countries. At the present, the Moroccan Jews count only about 5,000, and they mainly live in Casablanca and Marrakech. Few of the young choose to stay in Morocco, and their number is decreasing at a rate that make it quite possible that within few decades there will be no Jews left in the country.
The presence of Baha'i in Morocco is a result of migrations since the 1960's. Word of mouth causes some growth, but in total there is little good knowledge about the religion in Morocco.
Steps towards tolerance
Since the late 1990's, important steps towards a more tolerant and liberal attitude towards other religions have been taken. In 1998 a department for the study of comparative religions was opened at the University of Rabat. The new king, Muhammad 6, have many times expressed tolerance and respect for other religions.
Still, it remains illegal to convert from Islam, and punishable to attempt a Muslim to convert. But a Muslim woman can in Morocco marry a non-Muslim man, illegal in many Muslim countries.