Morocco has decided to teach Jewish history and culture in public primary schools, a move that translates the Kingdom’s multi-dimensional strategy to promote pluralism and tolerance and combat religious extremism.
Since the last school year, Moroccan children in the 6th grade of the primary cycle have gotten to know their fellow citizens of the Jewish faith better, to learn more about their traditions, their past, their identity and their Moroccan character.
These courses, which are part of a chapter dedicated to the Alawite dynasty, are all the more an exception in Arab-Muslim countries as they are taught in Arabic.
The decision, approved by King Mohammed VI, was hailed by several American Jewish organizations, including the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP).
These two organizations described in a joint statement the decision as “the latest assertive action by King Mohammed VI to perpetuate the Judeo-Moroccan legacy as an integral part of the Moroccan identity.”
The King’s approval of the curriculum represents his “enduring commitment to recognizing a pluralist past and assuring continuation in the future,” the statement reads. “At the core of this effort is enhancing understanding and fostering the connection between Muslims and Jews.”
The joint statement recalled that King Mohammed VI had underlined in a message to the United Nations that anti-Semitism “is not exclusively a problem for the Jewish people. Rather, anti-Semitism represents the sickness of a society racked by ‘failure, inadequacy, and inability to coexist.’”
“Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco’s philo-Semitism, is an inoculation against extremism,” says the joint statement.
The Moroccan initiative is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of religious communities in the country, which spearheads global efforts to advance inter-faith dialogue, building on actions in favor of protecting the rights of Jews.
This Moroccan initiative also underlines this Moroccan exception, especially at a time when Islam and Muslims are more stigmatized than ever, that their religion is associated by some Western media and politicians with a religion of hatred.
Thus, the leadership of King Mohammed VI and his steadfast commitment to promoting the values of tolerance, inter-religious dialogue and coexistence at home and abroad stand as a distinctive feature of Morocco in the last two decades.
“As Commander of the Faithful and defender of the faith, I am committed to protecting the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike”, the Sovereign had outlined in a speech in 2019, noting that Moroccan Jews enjoy the same constitutional & political rights as their fellow Muslim citizens, and play a key role in the country’s economy.
In 2010, King Mohammed VI initiated a program to refurbish hundreds of ancient synagogues, monuments, and Jewish cemeteries scattered throughout Morocco. Since then, the kingdom has spent millions of dollars to repair nearly 200 of these sites.
One of these landmark projects is “Bayt Dakira”, a venue dedicated to showcasing Judeo-Moroccan heritage in Essaouira.
The venue is also home to the “Slat Attia” Synagogue as well as the Haim and Celia Zafrani International Research Center on the history of relations between Judaism and Islam.
The North African country is currently home to the largest Jewish community in the Arab world with around 3,000 souls.