Morocco moves to drop headscarf
- Morocco moves to drop headscarf
By Richard Hamilton
Friday, 6 October 2006
BBC News, Rabat
Morocco is making major changes to religious education, in particular
whether young girls should wear headscarves.
A picture of a mother and her daughter wearing headscarves is being
removed from the latest editions of a text book.
A verse from the Koran that says girls should don veils has already
been taken out of the books.
Other Arab countries have made similar changes, worrying that the veil
could be used as a symbol of extremism.
There are few things that have become such obvious and controversial
symbols of Islamic identity as the headscarf.
But until now it has not been a controversial issue in Morocco.
This issue isn't really about religion, its about politics
On Avenue Mohammed V, the main avenue in central Rabat, older women in
particular can be seen wearing traditional long robes with full
But younger women wear everything from that to more modern clothes
such as trainers, jeans and T-shirts, with nothing on their heads -
except perhaps some expensive designer sunglasses.
The variety of clothes and head dresses seems to reflect the fact that
Morocco is seen as a liberal country with some pro-western leanings.
But for some more conservative people this latest move is an underhand
way of undermining Morocco's Islamic roots.
Abdelkarim El Houichre from the Association of Teachers of Islamic
Education does not trust the government's motives:
"I think there is pressure coming from the United States, which
believes that teaching about traditional Islam and teaching girls to
wear headscarves will somehow encourage extremism and terrorism," he
"But I think Islamic education has to be kept within mainstream
teaching in our schools because that way we can control it. If we deny
it to them in school then they will only go and find out more outside
of school and they are more likely to fall into the wrong hands."
In the current climate, the Moroccan government is worried about
anything that might fan the flames of Islamic fundamentalism and says
it does not want the headscarf to become a rallying cry for extreme
This image is being removed from text books
Education ministry official Aboulkacem Samir says the headscarf has
"This issue isn't really about religion, its about politics," he says.
"The headscarf for women is a political symbol, in the same way as the
beard is for men. But we in the ministry must be very careful that the
books are fair to all Moroccans and do not represent just one
Across the Arab world the headscarf issue seems to be gathering momentum.
In Tunisia for example, young women who wear veils say they have been
harassed by the authorities who are forcing the girls to remove their
veils at schools and universities.
The veil is perhaps a microcosm of a much broader dilemma - should
Arab countries in north Africa turn towards secular democracies or to
more traditional Islamist countries for their guidance and inspiration?
Morocco is treading a fine line between these competing influences and
the headscarf might just be something that trips it up.
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