Currently I am in a full-time research period, and a hallmark of the abroad curriculum of the School for International Training, known as the Independent Study Period (ISP). Because SIT places such a strong emphasis on fieldwork, each student is tasked with engaging in their community on a topic of interest independently for one month. The end result of this month of research is a 25 to 40 page research paper detailing findings and a 45 minute presentation on the process and findings of the independent study.
Only 15 days remain until I begin my full time independent study period! The opportunity to do a research project or internship is one of the hallmarks of the programs offered by the School for International Training, and one of the main reasons that I chose to come to Morocco. However, there is still so much to prepare so that I can use the quickly-approaching month of intentional research to its fullest potential. Organizing my research has been more frustrating than expected. The topic of religious moderation in Morocco is vast and very government-centric. The more I discover, the more complex the topic seems to grow!
I have narrowed down my focus to address those individuals whose trans-national identities are molded by their enrollment in the religious moderation training of the Moroccan government. Each year, the Moroccan government invites classes of young people from Africa and Europe to study at its International Imam Training School here in Rabat. Each country participating in the program has its own guidelines for selecting students to receive the training, but the Moroccan government pays for the schooling in full. The program started in September 2013, after Morocco reached an agreement with the Malian government to train 500 imams in the “moderate” Islam of the Moroccan King—the Commander of the Faithful, as he is named in the Moroccan Constitution. Since its inception, the Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs has received requests for the program’s trainings from numerous governments in sub-Saharan Africa, including Guinea and Niger, and European countries including France and Canada.
The ultimate goal of the programming is to engage in religious diplomacy and prevent the spread of radicalism by promoting a moderate interpretation of Islam. Students are trained in Maliki Islam, a school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence which has become widely promoted by the state in Morocco. Students who graduate from the program return to their home country to train other religious leaders. As radicalism is often based on ignorance, teaching a “pragmatic” form of interpretation of the Quran and Prophetic interpretation is understood to be both progressive and preventative, as the religious leaders go forth to foster values of “openness and tolerance".
My topic of study here in Morocco is Migration and Transnational identity—a topic I knew very little about before arriving in Rabat. In the insular world of our American politics, immigration is a buzzword often hurled across the partisan divide. It’s a word used to designate an identity and delineate the degree of “belonging”. But beyond the politicization, it’s a global crisis that we too often over-simplify in the US for our own convenience. So for the next few moments I ask you to detach yourself from these politics and take a hard look at the current reality of our planet's largest mass migration since World War II.
Due to its close proximity to Europe, Morocco is a case study in this great migration. Immigration to Morocco is popular among sub-Saharan Africans, seeking permanent residence in Europe. There are a variety of reasons that people leave their country. Some are “pushed” by poor economic conditions, war and conflict, or even environmental factors such as prolonged drought. As climate change continues to ravage the most resource-impoverished places in Africa, some immigrants have much less agency in the matter.
...continue reading "An Introductory Examination of Migration"
As-salamu alaykum (وَعَلَيْكُم السَّلَام, peace be upon you) from Morocco! Life is great. This blog has been a slow process, as my days have been full of cultural orientation, intensive classes, family time and exploring my new city with some bright people.
My name is Calla, although (everyone here pronounces it K-eye-lah). Macharfeen (nice to meet you!). I am a senior, studying International Affairs and Religion at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Hailing from a small farm town in Ohio, I often explain my major as the study of diplomacy, focusing on conflict resolution. In my field of study, it is very important to acquire experience abroad.