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Cablegate: Morocco: Ambassador's Meeting with Minister Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #1013/01 3631654
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291654Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1003
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 0032

UNCLAS RABAT 001013

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PHUM PREL KISL KPAO MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH MINISTER OF
ISLAMIC AFFAIRS

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met with Minister of
Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq on Dec. 8. In
substantive and open talks, they discussed U.S.-Moroccan
cooperation and the GOM's efforts to promote moderate Islam.
Toufiq emphasized Morocco's role as a moderate force in the
region and his ministry,s role in ensuring a unified,
non-radical message in local mosques. He also posited that
budget constraints pose the biggest challenge for his
Ministry. End Summary.

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Working with the U.S.
---------------------

2. (SBU) Minister of Endowments (Habous) and Islamic Affairs
Ahmed Toufiq opened the meeting by expressing his desire for
the U.S. and Morocco to work constructively towards stability
and moderation in the Arab and Islamic world. He opined that
Moroccans did not understand Americans well and suggested
that the two countries should work to promote greater
understanding. The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic
Affairs (MOEIA) as well as the King were involved in
promoting justice in Morocco, which he explained is a main
tenet of Islam as well as of democracy. Morocco and the U.S.
could also work together in other ways, he suggested.
Morocco is "not just another country in the Maghreb; it has a
specific role to play" in reducing conflicts, and is one of
only two or three countries in the region that can do so. In
a subtle critique, Toufiq said he wanted the U.S. to
understand better the importance of its relationship with
Morocco, and for U.S. analysis of Morocco to be "deep" and
focused on the long-term. Over the next five to ten years,
"things will not be easy for anyone" in the region, he said,
and, therefore, "we all need to work together for peace and
stability."

3. (SBU) In reference to the divergent experiences of
Morocco and Algeria in dealing with extremism, Toufiq noted
Morocco,s "luck" in having a different history from
Algeria,s, and asserted that "our neighbors are trying to
copy (the moderation) we have here." He acknowledged the
deep distrust and nearly complete lack of cooperation between
Algeria and Morocco, but described the two countries,
current relationship as just a temporary "moment" of
estrangement.

4. (SBU) Emphasizing the unique and moderate nature of
Moroccan Islam, Toufiq alluded to GOM concerns about the
negative influence of external Islamic ideas. Noting the
GOM's desire to build a Moroccan mosque in Washington, D.C.,
he said "our people are like aliens among other Muslim
communities" in the U.S.

------------------------
Promoting Moderate Islam
------------------------

5. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's comment on
separation of church and state in the U.S., Toufiq stated
unequivocally that it is impossible to make a clear
distinction between "mosque" and state in Islam. He
explained that if the political leader is not also religious,
people will be "expecting the mahdi" and will be "open to
revolt." It is necessary to assure people that everything
political falls within the framework of religious
fundamentals, he said, and the King has to be seen to be
engaged in the process of justice.

6. (SBU) Toufiq elaborated on the GOM's top-down efforts to
control mosques and imams and to ensure a moderate version of
Islam in the country. He explained that the King had used
royal decrees to create laws and define Islam in Morocco.
One of the major changes the MOEIA had initiated under his
leadership was creation of regional chiefs or delegates for
each of Morocco's 69 -- and soon to be more than 80 --
administrative regions. These delegates are charged with
managing operations of Morocco's 47,000 mosques and councils
of Ulema and with directing instruction in Koranic schools
and for imams. In addition to regulating instruction, the
regional councils of Ulema have taken on other projects, such
as literacy programs for up to 200,000 people per year. He
showed the Ambassador the MOEIA's "Guide for Imams,"
clarifying that imams are employees of the state; while they
may receive money from their communities, they also receive
government stipends. He stressed that it was not enough to
have security forces and an army but that the GOM also needed
"to have the religious people on our side."

----------
Challenges
----------

7. (SBU) In response to the ambassador's question about
problems facing MOEIA efforts, Toufiq highlighted a small
budget as the biggest challenge. He explained that 60
percent of mosques in Morocco are built by non-governmental
organizations and communities. However, if communities want
to run their mosques once they are constructed, they must
conform to the rules. The GOM will "not allow imams to use
the pulpit for propaganda or politics," he stated. Despite
the MOEIA's top-down approach, Toufiq expressed hope that one
day the GOM could return responsibility for mosques to
communities.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Moro cco
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