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Apolitical ‘Islamisation’? On the Limits of Religiosity in Montane Morocco

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Part of the Muslims in Global Societies Series book series (MGSS,volume 6)

Abstract

Carey shows how in a whole variety of different domains of life, the Berbers with whom he worked in Morocco have embraced reformist Islamic teachings. Strikingly, however, it is in the exact domain of life to which so many other anthropologists and social scientists have turned to explain and analyse reformist Islam – the political – that Berber people consciously break with registers of talk, argument and morality that are explicitly Islamic. Carey suggests that an important reason for this lies not in villagers’ disinterest in ‘Islamism’ but in the in the strength of their commitment to Islam as a shared source of moral authority that is also located beyond question and debate. This opens up alternative ways of exploring the relationship between politics and religion that go beyond the frequent opposition between Fundamentalism and Secularism.

Keywords

  • Islam
  • Politics
  • Morocco
  • Fundamentalism
  • Secularism
  • Berbers

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the words of Nagata, “Much is heard among Islamists today about the Islamic state. This is often elaborated on by statements affirming the ‘inseparability of religion and politics in Islam’.” (2001: 482).

  2. 2.

    A rather similar argument is made by Emmerson (2010) in his recent essay on ‘Inclusive Islamism’, where he suggests we recognise this shift towards what Roy what call neo-fundamentalism by removing the adjective ‘political’ from Piscatori’s definition of Islamists as ‘committed to political action to implement what they regard as an Islamic agenda’ and replacing it with the word ‘public’.

  3. 3.

    See, for instance, Marsden’s work on the ‘life of the mind’ in the Chitral region of Pakistan (2005).

  4. 4.

    There are no official figures for the size of Morocco’s Shi‘a community, but most estimates in the media place it somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 people.

  5. 5.

    Whilst many of Morocco’s Jewish elite emigrated to France, Canada and the USA, the poorer communities established in the mountains principally left for Israel, where they found employment in ‘farms’ in the Negev desert or as manual labourers. See Shokeid (1971) for the history of one such mountain community since its arrival in Israel.

  6. 6.

    Notably, the Nasiriyya order, with its centre in the small village of Tamegroute, once home to one of the richest libraries in North Africa, but now better known for its pottery and annual moussem (festival), to which many of my informants conducted an annual pilgrimage. See Carey (2012), Gutelius (2001, 2004), Hammoudi (1980), and Spillman (1938).

  7. 7.

    This abhorrence was, however, less visceral than conventional, as evidenced by the lack of opprobrium poured upon passing tourists (or anthropologists) who did partake – the rules only apply to those who admit them.

  8. 8.

    According to one French researcher I met whilst in the High Atlas, locals only made offerings to female junipers, even though they were unaware of the trees’ sexual dimorphism. This he took to be a matriarchal ‘survival’ in the Tylorian sense (Tylor 1871).

  9. 9.

    Central Moroccan tribes are generally subdivided into fractions (tiqbilin; sing. taqbilt), otherwise known as fifths (khumûs). Unlike the tribe (also known as taqbilt), whose existence is more a matter of theory than practice, these fractions continue to play an important role in people’s day-to-day lives. This division of labour is typical of North African tribes – see Tillon (1966) for a comparative discussion of the matter. The local fraction, which includes Tiflilist, and has a total population of about 2,500 people.

  10. 10.

    For Trotsky, the concept of Permanent Revolution explained how Communism could succeed in a country like Russia, that was not yet fully industrialised. The proletarian vanguard would seize power and join forces with the peasantry to work towards Communism.

  11. 11.

    I have argued elsewhere (Carey 2008) that the notion of council is erroneous and that they are better thought of as ephemeral crystallisations of political action.

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Carey, M. (2012). Apolitical ‘Islamisation’? On the Limits of Religiosity in Montane Morocco. In: Marsden, M., Retsikas, K. (eds) Articulating Islam: Anthropological Approaches to Muslim Worlds. Muslims in Global Societies Series, vol 6. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4267-3_9

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