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Morocco's Islamic Exports

The Counterterrorism Strategy Behind the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams

Moroccan women walk past the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca February 24, 2011. The minaret of the mosque is the highest in the world, standing at 689 feet. Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

At first glance, Madinat Al Irfane seems like an odd location from which to launch a global war of ideas against Islamic radicalism. The upscale middle-class suburb of Rabat is packed with nondescript office buildings and recently built apartment blocks, telltale signs of the widening prosperity of Morocco’s capital. But nestled behind these structures is a marker of a very different sort: a multimillion-dollar academic campus that houses the kingdom’s premier religious training academy, formally known as the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams.

Launched in late 2015, the institute is the central “professionalization” school for religious education in the country, subsuming other official training programs that had previously been carried out elsewhere. But it is also much more. The facility, and the ideas it promotes, lies at the center of the complex counterterrorism effort that Morocco has erected over the past decade and a half—one

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