A Religious Journey through Morocco

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lhanson
Oct 15, 2014


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Education, History

A Religious Journey through Morocco

Teaching Assistant Jacqueline Welch stands inside the Hassan II Mosque, appreciating its grand structure.
Teaching Assistant Jacqueline Welch stands inside the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca in awe of its grand structure.

With its proximity to countries challenged by political and religious strife, Morocco sits on a very different pedestal than many nearby nations. While the country has a strong majority of Islamic worshippers, approximately 99% of its citizens, it prides itself on a culture of acceptance. A religious tolerance that was witnessed in Casablanca first hand by Professor Adam Graves’s World Religions class.

Students enter the Moroccan Jewish Museum to study artifacts outlining the religion's long history in this country.
Students enter the Moroccan Jewish Museum to study artifacts outlining the religion’s long history in this country.

Traveling through the three Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, students in the World Religions class learned that Morocco was more diverse than many anticipated. Visiting St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Moroccan Jewish Museum and Hassan II Mosque, they took a deeper look at what connects these faiths. “This course makes reference to a shared mythological past that manifests in different ways in worshippers’ daily practice,” said Professor Graves. Students received a variety of perspectives describing the place of religion in Moroccan society.

While the Islamic religious presence in Morocco is strong, the nation has as big of an impact on all religions as they do on the country. As students made their way through all three structures they noticed colors and design motifs in the buildings and artifacts that reflect the style of the country and were not necessarily specific to religion. Hosting a second service every Sunday featuring an African style of music and dancing, St. John’s celebrates the heritage and culture of all parishioners. In the Moroccan Jewish Museum, Torah scrolls were adorned with intricate kessers embellished in a Moroccan style. The exterior of the Hassan II Mosque was covered in patterns and colors that could be found decorating homes, businesses, and historical sites in the region. “The government is proud of its diverse heritage and proud that the minority tradition has survived and contributed to cultural heritage and the identities of Moroccans,” added Professor Graves.

Exploring the surrounding cemetery, world religion students study the role of Christian worshippers in a predominantly Muslim country.
Exploring the surrounding cemetery, world religion students study the role of Christian worshippers in a predominantly Muslim country.

Adapting to their environment, religions are able to peacefully coexist under the rule of king Mohammed VI. Currently praised for his dedication to religious acceptance and progressive values, the king also remains deeply connected to his nation’s Islamic majority with a claim as the current purest human bloodline relation to The Prophet Mohammed. With many students having limited exposure to the Islamic faith prior to this course, the Hassan II Mosque was nothing but impressive with its vast capacity to accommodate 25,000 worshipers at one time. “I had never been to a mosque before and it was nothing like I expected… I learned a bit about them in class but seeing the (Hassan II) in person was incredible,” said Brielle Calcagno, from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

For World Religion students the unique culture of Morocco left a mark and opened their eyes to a society once foreign to them. Their experiences shed light on a nation that preaches tolerance in a country with religious minorities. “Seeing how many different view points there are and how accepting they are really impressed me…Growing up as a Christian I was never exposed to Islam and seeing all three different religions all in one day was incredible,” concluded Quincey Shelton of Oregon State University.

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