The Moroccan community in Europe numbers around 2.6 million, a third in France. Some of its members are notorious internationally for their involvement (and subsequent trial and sentence) in the 2004 Madrid train bombing or for preaching violence in Italy.
The 176 preachers have to ensure that expatriate Moroccans remain true to their roots and Malikite traditions and instil in them the values of “good citizenship” in their host countries.
In a statement, the Moroccan government said that that the 167 men and nine women (Morocco is the only country to have female imams) have been given the task of “meeting the religious needs of the Moroccan community abroad, protect them from any speeches of an extremist or irregular nature and shelter them from fanaticism and extremism.”
The candidates have been chosen according to strict criteria. Apart from being well-versed in teaching and understanding theology, they must be noted for their “good reputation, devout beliefs and high moral standards.” They must also be of good appearance and have impeccable manners.
The 176 will be divided up as follows: 100 will go to France, 31 to Belgium, 10 each to Italy and Germany and seven each to Spain and the Netherlands. The rest will be spread between Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. One will also go to Canada.