By Sergio Altuna
First published by EuroMesCo: https://www.
Contribution with a paper entitled «Evolution of Religious Institutions and their Political Role in the Greater Maghreb: The Cases of Tunisia and Morocco» within the joint policy study “Cooperation with Religious Institutions as a European Policy Tool”.
Taking Morocco and Tunisia as case studies, the main objective of this paper is first to analyse the gradual development of religious institutions since both countries’ independence as well as to assess their evolving role. On the other hand, through the analysis of their political role, this paper delves into the questions of how the states seek to frame religion and control the religious spectrum through official institutions. As a result, by way of conclusion, a set of policy recommendations for a better European policy formulation regarding cooperation with religious institutions has been included to summarise the most important points emerging from the document.
On a lower level, the document will also aim at briefly describing and categorising Islamic religious institutions according to the most evident divisions. This will also help to assess their degree of manoeuvrability independent of the central political power in order to better articulate a set of recommendations for European policy formulation.
As an international debate is currently taking place regarding claims that increased control over religious institutions is an important way to stop terrorism, it is important to define religious institutions. For the purpose of this research, the term institutions has been treated in its broad and non-restrictive sense, meaning visible and organised manifestations in a particular context. Those bodies, depending on the country, can range from ministries and relevant administrations attached to or dependent on them to places of worship, zāwāya, academic and scholarly religious centres of thought and other relevant more or less structured organisations providing religious-oriented or religious related services.