Morocco invites at least 40 imams for visit
29 October 2008
THE NETHERLANDS – The governing bodies of mosques in the Netherlands are alarmed by the departure of at least 40 imams on a government-paid trip to Morocco.
After being invited by the authorities in Rabat to Morocco, the clerics left on Friday without consulting the boards which administer the mosques.
Nearly a quarter of the imams in the Netherlands are taking part in the trip.
Trouw reports that parliament wants an explanation for the sudden recall to Morocco of 50 imams, who were summoned to take part in ‘religious talks’.
Labour MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem is concerned about the sudden departure of the clergymen. “I’m told they were recalled for instruction. It is unacceptable Morocco should interfere with Moroccans in the Netherlands this way. Many Moroccans don’t want this at all, they want integration.”
Christian Democratic MP Madeleine van Toorenburg says: “This is once again proof that the Moroccan government is wrapping its tentacles around the Moroccan community in the Netherlands.”
Director Farid Azarkan of the Association of Moroccans in the Netherlands says the Moroccan authorities have been increasingly interfering with the affairs of mosques in the Netherlands.
Azarkan says the situation is bizarre and unacceptable. “The imams are paid by the mosques, and yet the influence of Morocco is so strong that the imams immediately pack their backs when recalled by Rabat. Some of them only go because they are afraid.”
In February, the Moroccan foreign ministry announced it wanted to increase its influence on Moroccan migrant communities abroad, and created a council for overseas religious affairs.
According to Trouw, this policy was prompted by fears that the flow of money from abroad would dry up if migrants’ ties with their home country weaken. Rabat also wants to fight religious extremism by maintaining a tight grip on its citizens abroad.
Dijsselbloem says this is probably why the imams were summoned to Morroco.
Dijsselbloem has asked the cabinet to raise the issue with the Moroccan authorities.
As a result of the imams’ unannounced departure, many Muslims went to the mosque for Friday prayers only to find them closed.
There are around 170 Muslim houses of worship in the Netherlands.
[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica]