The King’s Feminists : Reordering Relations Between the State and the Moroccan Feminists

The King’s Feminists : Reordering Relations Between the State and the Moroccan Feminists

إلياس بوزغايةإلياس بوزغاية5 October 202152min910
Morocco’s feminist movement has reached multiple milestones throughout its history of adaptation and coexistence with political and social transformations. The Monarchy played a key role in directing the transformations that affected this movement and established its dominating position over Morocco’s feminist spectrum.

Ilyas Bouzghaya

May 2021


Executive Summary

Morocco’s feminist movement has reached multiple milestones throughout its history of adaptation and coexistence with political and social transformations. The Monarchy played a key role in directing the transformations that affected this movement and established its dominating position over Morocco’s feminist spectrum. This paper is based on an analysis of the development of feminist movements in Morocco against the backdrop of dynamics that shaped its relation with the state since the adoption of the family code in 1957 until now (2021), with the emergence of a “Third Trend” amid the dimming sway of ideological polarization and the hegemony of the official posture in shaping the discourse on women rights in Morocco. The present paper argues that official actors showed early awareness to the importance of the feminist movement by adopting strategies and co-option tactics in order to define the human rights and social landscape that mixes between “state-sponsored feminism” with the “Third Trend”.

  • The Feminist Movement in Morocco: A Trajectory of Evolution and Diversity

The origins of organized feminist action in Morocco date back to the 1940s. Historians in general distinguish between three main phases characterizing Morocco’s feminist struggle:

  • From 1940 to 1970: This phase was marked by an affiliation of most feminist associations to national parties as they tried to combine the struggle against colonial rule with offering social support for women and advocating their right to education (for instance: Association Akhawat Assafae)
  • From 1970 to 1990: This period was characterized by the continued association of most feminist NGOs with the agenda of political parties, notably the left, which kept pace with global transformations and the increasing interest in feminist issues. This was conducive to the rise of progressive women demands amid institution-building efforts after Morocco gained its independence.
  • From 1990 todate : Previous efforts contributed to the increase in women associations in the 1990s, with 55.2% of all NGOs created in the 1980s and early 1990s. During this period, the bond between political parties and its feminist branches weakened from an organizational perspective. Probably, one of the distinctive features of this period is the Islamic awakening and the ensuing divisions and cracks within the Moroccan feminist edifice[1].

Previous efforts contributed to the increase in women associations in the 1990s

This historical recount offers a basis to state that the concept of “Morocco’s feminist movement” is too general and too evasive as it only relates to support for women rights. It also refers to a large array of currents and different methods to achieve the same goal. The Moroccan feminist landscape includes different bodies that differ in nature and actions as well as positions. There are feminist associations with a human rights dimension, while other groups focus more on social and economic aspects. Another type of feminist NGOs is more interested in theory and the academia. Yet, given the diversity in feminist NGOs in terms of action and specialties, they can be divided into three main categories on the basis of their intellectual and ideological referentials :

First: The Secular Current

Within this current, it is important to mention that some researchers have distinguished between the socialist and the liberal groups[2]. To be more precise and more up to date with the recent developments, the leftist trend is no longer keen to show its Marxist and Leninist beliefs in its actions and modern rhetoric. In this respect, Latifa El Bouhsini, a professor and researcher in the history of Morocco’s feminist movements, says that the Marxist-Leninist current within leftist political parties have faded after the fall of Berlin Wall, as most feminist movements re-thought their referential giving way to new understandings of socialism in the Moroccan context. Most of the discussions and arguments put forward by leftist Moroccan feminists were published in “8 March” magazine, which traces the development of the leftist Moroccan feminist discourse. El Bouhsini notes that the global and local political environment is more leaning towards the Western camp, citing an increase in participation by Moroccan feminists in international conferences, which helped gradually open up the movement to international conventions relating to women rights as a new referential. However, “I cannot affirm that this represents an alternative to the leftist current,” she says[3].

Most of the discussions and arguments put forward by leftist Moroccan feminists were published in “8 March” magazine,

The secular feminist movement has a referential that stems from the human rights charters and international conventions adopted by the UN, chief among which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Morocco in 1993. Among the NGOs that are part of this current: the progressive feminist union (part of the UMT labor union) and the federation of the women rights league ( formerly known as the democratic federation for women rights, founded in 1993). Some alliances and networks have been created such as the Alliance of Dignity spring, Anaruz Network for Abused Women Listening Centers, the Equity Network, Mishaal Network and Israr Alliance for Women Empowerment and Equality. These are all alliances that sought to act as feminist lobby groups to defend specific issues in different contexts.

Second: The Islamic Current

This current is part of Morocco’s Islamic movement which includes political parties, preaching branches, associations, institutions and personalities that use their Islamic referential in shaping feminist demands. Among the representatives of this current, the Party for Justice and Development (PJD), the Movement for Unity and Reform (MUR), the Justice and Charity group (better known as Al AdlWa Al-Ihssan), the Renaissance and Virtue party and the Civilizational Alternative party as well as the Salafi trend.

However, the main representatives of Islamic feminism are the MUR and the PJD, because they have both been involved in the political scene since the 1990s compared with other Islamic organizations. The first Islamic feminist organizations were  created in 1995. Dubbed “the organization to renew women awareness,” this group brought together activists from the PJD including Bassima Hakkaoui who led the group. Ten years later, another Islamic feminist organization, the Azzahrae Moroccan Women Forum, was created by a group of women activist from the same party. Azzahrae Forum is a network of associations from across Morocco that share the same goals and Islamist background. In 2011, the PJD bolstered its presence within the feminist movement by creating the “organization for PJD women.”

Al Adl Wa Al-Ihssan for its part had a women branch led for a long time by Nadia Yassine, daughter of Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, the founder of the group and author of a book entitled “Enlightening Female Believers (Tanwir al Mouminat).” This book has guided the members of Al AdlWa Al-Ihssane on all issues relating to women and Islam. The group and its women branch contributed to highlighting the place of religious identity in women issues.

the literature and positions of the Islamic feminist movement are not coherent

For their parts, the Renaissance and Virtue party, which sprouted from the PJD in 2005, and the disbanded Civilizational Alternative Party as well as some Salafi figureheads in Morocco are all Islamic groups that do not have a significant weight in the Moroccan political spectrum although they do occasionally express conservative stands regarding women issues.

It is worth mentioning that the literature and positions of the Islamic feminist movement are not coherent. This was explained by the researcher Meryem Yacout in her thesis on Islamic feminists in Morocco[4]. While the Salafi proponent expresses extremist positions regarding women issues in general and the PJD feminists struggle to adapt its stands with the transformations in the political environment, a third Islamic current is only trying to build bridges and close the gap between the Islamic and universal ideals.

Third: The Compromise Current

Also referred to as the “third trend,” this current is echoed in academic publications that keep a neutral stand  from all other prevailing political and ideological players. Though the following section will examine this current in its relation to the Moroccan state  two main  observations can be drawn. The . Although it was originally coined in a political and economic sphere to stand for a compromise halfway between the socialist and capitalist extremes at the end of the 20C. This concept was first used by in the feminist sphere by Moroccan researcher Asmae Lamrabet as a concept that refers to the compromise between the two extreme ends of secular and Islamic feminism. She argues that there is no dichotomy between Islamic and universal human rights values through a re-reading of religious texts from a religious perspective[5]. This thought spread and was later echoed in several countries.

there is no dichotomy between Islamic and universal human rights values through a re-reading of religious texts from a religious perspective

The second remark is linked to the mechanisms of this current. While most Islamists act within the civil society in order to campaign and put political pressure against anything that affects Islamic identity, this third current is often expressed in intellectual and academic forums to spread ideas that usually require examination from an Islamic perspective without ignoring other dimensions and approaches. This current rose to the fore in the wake of feminist battles between Islamism and secularism advocates starting from 2005.

  • Feminist Vacillations and the Role of the State in Co-opting Feminist Escalation: from “One Million Petitioners” to the Family Code

The feminist movement made significant achievements throughout its struggle to provide  Moroccan women with better conditions. These milestones do not attest only to the gains of the feminist movement but also reflect the phases of rapprochement and antagonism between its components. Although pressure by feminists and their demands for reform started practically after independence, the one-million petitioner campaign represented the first clash between the two main currents within the feminist movement. This campaign, launched by the union of feminist action in March 1992, sought to gather one million signatures by citizens in order to form a popular petition to be submitted to authorities to push for the reform of the family code adopted in 1957. The code had been shrouded in sacrality because it was based on the Maliki rite, the Quran and the Sunnah (prophetic tradition) in laying down the rights and obligations of men and women within a family[6].

Afterwards, King Hassan II appointed a commission of Ulemas and legal experts to amend the family code in September 1993. The King approved only amendments that made consensus. Feminist activists described them as too superficial because they failed to address the main issues including marital guardianship and polygamy.

although the reforms were not satisfactory for feminist activists, they considered them important for ensuring the success of their efforts

Despite the limited reforms, we can make two conclusions: First, Muslim scholars who are not linked to the palace have been stripped of legitimacy and have been alerted not to venture to speak in the name of Islam because that is the realm of the King as Commander of the Faithful. Second, although the reforms were not satisfactory for feminist activists, they considered them important for ensuring the success of their efforts[7], because the slight amendments had a symbolic significance in the sense that the family code is no longer an untouchable or unchangeable text.

Pending better conditions to renew its demands, the feminist movement quantitatively and qualitatively fostered its presence in the political scene. In 1997, minister Said Saadi of the Progress and Socialism Party (PPS), launched “the national plan for the integration of women in development.” The plan comprised recommendations to amend the family code which provoked Islamic and conservative circles. It is worthy to mention that the plan was proposed by an enthusiastic leftist government (alternation government), led by The Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), which tried to insulate reform from Muslim scholars and without consulting the palace. Therefore, the plan was not welcomed by many political rivals. Bassima Hakkaoui of the PJD, former Family, Solidarity and Social Development Minister said that the problem back then was not about the plan in itself[8], but rather about the exclusionary method adopted by the government which sidelined other parties in elaborating it.

The beginning of the 21st century  was characterized by acute tensions between feminists and conservative currents around what was referred to as the “socialist project.” A network of opponents were brought together under the umbrella of “the national group to protect the Moroccan family,” which alleged that the plan threatened the cohesion of the Moroccan family and led a march of one-million people to voice opposition to the plan in Casablanca on March 12, 2000. Islamic currents campaigned against the plan within mosques and in the media as well as public places going as far as knocking doors. Opposition to the plan was also expressed by the Islamic Affairs Ministry and the league of Moroccan Ulemas (Muslim scholars) who considered the reform as null because Ulemas were not involved and also because it ignored the religious role of the Monarch as the only religious authority which has legitimacy to carry out such a reform. In this regards, Rabea Naciri affirms that “Islam was used as a means of excluding opposition political parties, which were accused of being alien and secular and hence lacking in legitimacy[9].”

The national plan to integrate women in development failed on the back of a surge in opposition campaigns. The years that ensued the two marches were marked by fierce and extensive debates on women issues in the Moroccan society. Features of a convergences and divergences became more apparent between the two feminist currents. While all feminists- whether secular or Islamist- agree that the social, economic and political conditions of women had to improve, they differed in the methodology and conceptual frameworks to meet that end-goal. Bassima Hakkaoui explained that “the controversial point… was about the referential,” as the proponents of the plan did not agree to put the Islamic referential above the universal one[10]. Therefore, amid the intense controversy and the indifference of the conservatives and progressives  of the religious authority in the country represented by the institution of the Commandership of the faithful, there was no way out but a Royal intervention to act as an arbiter. The King delivered a speech[11] on April 27, 2001, that culminated with the appointment of an advisory body on the family code which included religious scholars, academics, legal experts and female human rights activists[12] following a participatory approach based on compromise and collective research that culminated with the elaboration of a family code in 2004, described as “quiet revolution” which brought significant legal assets in women’s favour.

The State Contextualization of the Feminist Landscape: from the Family Code to the “Third Trend”

The adoption of the family code in 2004 can be described as a culmination of a process of acute polarization within the Moroccan feminist movement and the beginning of a process of less intense friction. The monarchy played a key role in influencing the debate on women issues at two levels:

Firstly: through the inclusion of the religious dimensions symbolized in the King’s role as the Commander of the Faithful and head of state. Constitutionally, he is the only eligible person to arbiter in his capacity as the supreme representative of the state in line with the content of his speech on the occasion of the Revolution of the King and the People in 2003. Thus, the new family code was meant to foster the “legitimacy of the King’s rule from a religious perspective, i.e., through a new vision of Islamic values, secularism was no longer an option for reform[13].” Consequently, secular feminist movements started to change their strategies by citing Islamic instrument of “Ijtihad” as a means of achieving women empowerment in a Muslim country like Morocco[14]. Since then, Islam has become the main framework for reform after the King clearly stated that he could not allow what God has forbidden or forbid what God has allowed, adding that the purposes of tolerant Islam in achieving justice, equality, cohabitation with virtue and the unity of the Maliki doctrine and Ijtihad[15].

The adoption of the family code in 2004 can be described as a culmination of a process of acute polarization within the Moroccan feminist movement

Secondly: The feminist cause and the ideological polarizations linked to it offered an occasion for the emergence of one of the exclusive realms of the Commandership of the Faithful institution represented in leading interpretation of religion (Ijtihad). Despite strong campaigns by the conservative current which rejected the plan on a religious basis for the integration of women in development, there was an expansion of the scope of interpretation (Ijtihad) within the religious sphere in line with the plan. This was confirmed by Nouzha Skalli, former women, family and social development minister of the PPS party, who said the adoption of the family code pushed Islamists to relinquish their defensive stands and their inclination to think dogmatically about Islam as a source in favour of positions that are more conducive to women rights[16]. It is equally important to recall that the Casablanca explosions in 2003 played a key role in the waning of the Islamic movement’s enthusiasm, especially after they have been held morally responsible for spreading an ideology that feeds terrorism and justifies violence.

The above mentioned details show that the feminist ideological momentum lost traction as the state showed a capacity to combine religion and human rights as an aspect of the Moroccan exception manifested through “feminizing Islam and Islamizing feminism[17].” This took place at international and national contexts where Ijtihad played a pivotal role in achieving three main state goals: curbing ideological extremism, fostering the state’s grip on the feminist sphere and improving Morocco’s image in the fields of women rights.

The events of September 11, 2001 and the bombings of May 16, 2003 as well as the “Arab Spring” in 2011 and other events have each offered a chance to the state to reaffirm its capacity in dealing as a supreme authority with new developments. The events that preceded the family code back the conclusions we mentioned earlier. After 2005, the intensity of the ideological friction abated giving way to new features of the feminist sphere marked by a dominance of “state feminism” or the “third trend” through adding the gender approach to the religious sphere and bolstering women rights. The following is an examination of the main phases explaining how the state dominated the feminist landscape through four main strategies:

  • Feminizing the official religious institution: State feminism

The concept “genderization of the religious sphere” and “state feminism” can be included within the general project launched by the state in 2004 known as “the restructuring of the religious sphere.” This was expressed through the feminization of the official religious institution, starting with the hiring of Dr Farida Zomorod as the first female higher education professor to teach at Dar Al Hadith Al Hassaniyah in 2001. Afterwards, Dr Rajae Naji Mekkaoui was invited to give a lecture before the King (Hassani lectures) in 2003 and in 2004, Fatima Kabbaj,  an Al Karaouin alumnus, was appointed at the higher religious council which stands as the supreme Muslim scholar body in the country. Moreover, 36 female scholars (Ulema) were appointed at different local Ulema councils and a commission for women and family issues was created in these councils to offer guidance[18].

Besides the Ulema councils, female presence was boosted in the rest of state religious institutions. The Mohammed VI institute for the training of Imams and male and female religious guides- known as Mourchidate- was created. This institution, together with other teaching institutions like Dar Al Hadith Al Hasaniyah and the Rabita Mohammedia (which houses a center dedicated to women issues in Islam), have trained scores of researchers and Ulema who perpetuated the official religious discourse based on Sunni Islam, the Achari doctrine, the Maliki rite and the Sufism of Al Junaid, which all represent the foundation of Morocco’s moderate stance that governs the interpretation of women rights in Islam[19]. As part of the feminization of jobs linked to religion, Morocco allowed women in 2018 to practice the job of Addoul (marriage officers), following Royal instructions and a fatwa of the Higher Ulema Council. The decision reflected a Royal willingness to strengthen equality and an outperformance of the framework in which feminist movements operate.

  • Leadership in serving women rights

At the human rights level, the state, embodied by the monarchy, reasserted its role as the main actor ensuring Morocco’s respect for international conventions relating to women rights. After Morocco ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993 with reservations on a religious basis, the King sent a letter in 2008 to the international community on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Human Rights Declaration in which he announced that Morocco lifted itsreservation on CEDAW, which have become outdated in light of the progressive Moroccan legislation. Three years later, this letter was mirrored on the ground when Morocco published in its official bulletin that it has effectively lifted its reservations on Articles 9 and 19 of CEDAW on September 1, 2000, during the government of Abbas El Fassi. This has irked Islamists who compared this to “smuggling in the middle of the night[20].” They argued that the ratification of CEDAW would undermine the stability and identity of the Moroccan family as well as national values[21]. The irony of fate was that Islamists had to ratify the optional protocol for CEDAW in 2015 affirming that they cannot oppose sovereign decisions and that they were ready to pragmatically adapt to the political realities. It is therefore fair to say that the state pulled the rug from under the feet of all human rights activists.

As part of the feminization of jobs linked to religion, Morocco allowed women in 2018 to practice the job of Addoul (marriage officers)

At the level of services, the national initiative for human development (INDH) represented one of the main measures to improve social conditions in the country. Particular attention was attached to women as a “vulnerable group”. The national coordination for INDH deemed that promoting social and economic rights for women is at the core of its main goals[22]. The initiative has previously supported a number of associations that offer advice to women and cooperatives creating revenue generating activities for women. Moreover, the national cooperation institution, founded by late King Mohammed V and chaired by Princess Lalla Aicha, served as a key partner for the ministry of solidarity, social development, equality and family. Besides, there are many institutions nominally affiliated to members of the Royal family, which offer social services benefiting large number of women. There are also funds dedicated to improving social services supervised by the King, the latest was the fund to respond to the Coronavirus and the draft law concerning social protection aiming at generalizing social welfare by 2025[23]. At the academic level, there is a race between different institutions and associations to win Royal patronage for their cultural events in a quest for official legitimacy instead of an ideological branding. This, in part, shows that the state was not fully leading all initiatives in support of women and that it was not competing against the government nor the civil society but rather sets the pace at all levels.

  • Arbitration and Balance in Contentious Issues

Following the historical process, there is a series of events marked by ideological polarization that ended with a Royal arbitration that kept a sort of balance between the secular and Islamist currents while giving last say to official authorities. In this regards, we can mention the fatwa by Sheikh Abderrahman Maghraoui allowing marriage of 9-year old girls in 2008. This fatwa triggered the backlash of feminist movements. The supreme Ulema council, affiliated to the monarchy, issued a statement describing Maghraoui as a “trouble maker known for sowing confusion about the values of the nation and its rite[24].” The interior ministry did not wait for a verdict and proceeded to close Door Al Quran (Quran teaching schools) loyal to Maghraoui. Arbitration was also repeated during the abortion issue raised by liberal feminist activists in 2012 after a Dutch ship offering women safe abortion docked in a Moroccan port triggering a spate of protests and rejection and an intensive public debate. The contention has ended with a Royal arbitration with the appointment of a committee led by the Ministers of Justice and Islamic affairs as well as the head of the national human rights council. The committee conducted large consultations that were followed by a statement of the Royal household which concluded that the results of the consultations show that “sweeping majority advocates the criminalization of illicit abortion except in specific cases[25].”

Besides arbitration, the monarchy followed an approach to strike balance between the main players in society. The calls of the feminist movement for a new constitution during the Arab Spring in 2011 represented another opportunity to reassert the Monarchy’s approach. While calls for fostering women rights and equality rose to the fore in the literature of the secular feminist current[26], new demands by the Islamic current emerged in favour of strengthening the family[27]. With a view to balancing these different demands, the constitution enshrined gender equality in Articles 19 and 164, which served as the basis for setting up a committee to achieve parity and fight all sorts of discrimination[28]. The importance of protecting the family was highlighted in Articles 32 and 169 of the constitution, which stipulated the setting up of the family and childhood advisory council through law 14-78[29]. Thus, the entire feminist spectrum could be satisfied whether or not their demands were materialized on the ground.

  • Maintaining Ambiguity and Open Interpretations

The number of initiatives and draft laws to improve women conditions have yet to see light although they are officially required. These include the council for parity and fight against all sorts of discrimination and the advisory council for family and childhood. These have not been established yet nearly 10 years after the 2011 constitution, indicating a desire to leave a sort of ambiguity among activists, particularly regarding sensitive issues. Article 19 of the constitution states that men and women have equal civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, in line with international conventions ratified by Morocco[30] and the Kindgom’s constants. This article in particular reveals an ambiguity that some describe as a contradiction because equality in international conventions is different from its meaning in the “Kingdom’s foundations” which include Islam[31]. Therefore, the legislator shunned giving primacy to these leaving ambiguity and confusion.

The state could also keep a sort of balance and social stability under the motto of the “third path” combining tradition, modernity, secularism, Islam and feminism.

This ambiguity is revealed through two main issues: inheritance and the royal pardon to journalist Hajar Raissouni. Calls for gender equality in inheritance or the renewed debate about it faces the obstacle of the reaction of a conservative society that strongly rejects this move. This reaction is also reflected in state policy which tends to leave this issue unresolved due to its sensitivity and in a bid to avoid social clashes and complexities that may affect such a reform. The pardon that journalist Hajar Raissouni[32]received is reflective of the ability of the state to manipulate the law. It could use the law to incriminate extra-marital relationships (Article 490 of the penal code) in order to settle political scores and imprison Hajar Raissouni and afterwards grant her Royal Pardon as part “of the compassion and clemency recognized to the Sovereign and HM the King’s concern to preserve the future of the engaged couple who intended to found a family in accordance with religious precepts and the law, despite the mistake they allegedly made and which led to this legal action[33].” This can be interpreted as a political tactic, because Article 490 was not abolished, despite calls by feminist associations, , according to the researcher Mohammed Masbah, who added that the same article has been used by the state to crackdown on the opposition and opponents, including Islamists[34].

Generally, these strategies played key roles in bolstering the domination of the regime on the Moroccan feminist spectrum, leading to the marginaalization of feminist groups and their role in social mobilization in favour of women issues. The state could also keep a sort of balance and social stability under the motto of the “third path” combining tradition, modernity, secularism, Islam and feminism.

  • “The Third Trend” or “State Feminism”?

In light of the above, the feminist spectrum in contemporary Morocco is more reflective of a domination of the state on feminist demands as part of what can be termed as “state feminism”. This domination is linked to a general trend that comprises all feminist activists, in a bid to transcend dogmas and ideologies in order to build a consensual methodology known as the “third path[35]”. Although there is not much space for more details about these concepts, we will try to explain how state feminism came to the fore by shedding light on three factors.

The first factor is the dimming sway of ideologies giving way for consensus. The state has worked since independence to absorb tension between feminist movements. After the family code, it started laying the foundations for “state feminism”, while ensuring consensus and balance. This was also the goal of the advocates of the consensual current or the “third trend”. In this connection, Zakia Salime[36], Souad Eddaouda, Renata Pipecelli[37] and Aili Tripp[38] explained in their writings that the discourse on women rights served the state both as a counter-terrorism instrument and as a means to monopolize legitimacy at the political and social levels. This hypothesis is backed by the opinion of Asef Bayat in his take on the post-political Islam era, arguing that there is a transformation in Islamist discourses as they gear up towards a hybrid discourse combining Islam and democracy under pressure from the new political context and intellectual calls for Ijtihad and the reform of religious discourse.

The second trend confirms the convergence between “state feminism” and the “third trend”. This trend does not use ideological or political mobilization as a method. It rather focuses on theology to highlight the convergence between Islam and the principles of the feminist movement, in a bid to depart from male interpretations of Islam and break away with the western model of feminism which rejects religion. In this respect, Asma Lamrabet stands as an ardent advocate of this current. She said in an interview in 2017 that Morocco “was in need of a new current – that brings together secularism and Islam – and I call it the third path.” Lamrabet hinted that this current couldn’t have emerged without a Royal willingness and that it should not necessary be termed as “state feminism”, but rather the feminimism of the political willingness that made us enact laws open to international law and Islam[39].

The third indicator shows that the “third path” is welcomed by the state and the large chuncks of the younger generation. On the one hand, it represents a current espoused by personalities and institutions that are not linked to any political parties that could threaten or rival the state and it agrees with the regime about the goal to establish balance between demands for modernization through “universal” laws and calls for remaining faithful to the Islamic referential as a basis for interpretation or reform. On the other hand, it enjoys popularity among the youth who are seeking to conciliate freedom, equality and justice with Islamic values. Moreover, the attractiveness of this current is also embodied in its ability to be open to modern technologies and social media. This was explained by Doris Gray and Habiba Boumlik in their study on the literature of Fatima Mernisi (who coined the concepts of : the digital nation and society of believers to refer to a society that transcends regional and national borders because it is connected via the internet). Asma Lamrabet and Amina Wadoud have both used new communication technologies to spread their ideas and communicate with a larger audience from across the globe[40].

At the end, we can say that the Morocco’s modern feminist spectrum is an outcome of interactions between ideological currents with each other and with the authorities which showed an ability to produce a blend between “state feminism” and the “third path” current. This reflects the regime’s capacity to reproduce the methods of containment and balance, because the state’s approach converged and avoided confrontation with the discourse of the “third path” as shown in this study.

[1]جميلة، المصلي. “المنظمات النسائية بالمغرب المعاصر. قراءة في التجربة”. ورقة قدمت في مؤتمر “دور المرأة العربية في التنمية المستدامة”. ARADO. 2008. ص. 175

[2]– انظر على سبيل المثال جميلة مصلي. المنظمات النسائية في المغرب المعاصر. اتجاهات وقضايا. مركز الجزيرة للدراسات. الدوحة. قطر. 2013

[3] Interview conducted by the researcher with Latifa Bouhsini on 9 February, 2018, in Rabat.

[4] Please check the dissertation of MeriemYafout:

“Meriem, Yafout. Femmes au sein des mouvementsislamistes :facteur de modernisation”: (

[5]Please check Montasir Hamada, 2019, Asma Lamrebet, the third option in understanding Muslim women issues. (

[6] Please check HouriaNiati, 2016, on the political management of family code reform in Morocco. (

[7] Fatima Sadiqi. “The Central Role of the Family Law in the Moroccan Feminist Movement”.  British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 35(3). Routledge, December 2008, pp: 325–337. P. 331

[8] An interview conducted by the researcher with BassimaHakaoui on September 25, 2017 in Rabat.

[9]RabéaNaciri. “The Women’s Movement and Political Discourse in Morocco.UNRISD Occasional Paper no. 8.Geneva: UNRISD.1998. P. 6

[10]بسيمة الحقاوي. “الفاصل بين مشروع الخطة ومدونة الأسرة”. فصل في الكتاب الجمعي ثورة هادئة من مدونة الأحوال الشخصية إلى مدونة الأسرة. منشورات زمان. مطبعة النجاح الجديدة. ص. 52

[11]Abderrahmane El Youssoufi tried to form a special committee of national consensus but it rather sought to support modernists and reduce the role of the commandership of the faithful, Islamists and the Ulemas.

[12] Three women ZhourLhor, Rahma Bourkia and Nouzha Guessous were among the 17 personalities appointed to the committee.

[13] Léon Buskens, “Recent debates on family law reform in Morocco: Islamic law as politics in an emerging public sphere”. Islamic Law and Society 10/1 (2003), pp. 70–131). P. 83

[14]Alexandra Pittman and RabéaNaciri.”Winning women’s rights in Morocco: cultural adaptations and Islamic family law“, in Gaventa, John, and Rosemary McGee. Citizen Action and National Policy Reform: Making Change Happen. London: Zed, 2010. P. 176

[15] King’s speech marking the opening of the Parliament session 2003-2004.

[16] An interview with NouzhaSkalli on Novermber 15, 2017 in Casablanca.

[17]Zakya, Salime. Between Feminism and Islam.Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2011

[18]محمد بوشيخي. “تطور المسألة النسائية بالمغرب: الديني والسياسي في الصراع حول قانون الأسرة”. فصل في الكتاب الجماعي النسوية الإسلامية والجهاد من أجل العدالة. من ص 283 إلى ص 321. مركز المسبار للدراسات والبحوث. دبي. مطابع المتحدة للطباعة والنشر. 2012

[19]Baylocq, Cédric, et al. “Spreading a ‘Moderate Islam’? Morocco’s New African Religious Diplomacy.” AfriqueContemporaine, vol. No 257, no. 1, 2016, pp. 113–28.

[20] An interview with Ahmed Raisouni published on Tajdid on October 7, 2011.

[21]– بيان منتدى الزهراء حول رفع تحفظات المغرب على المادة 16 من اتفاقية القضاء على كافة أشكال التمييز ضد المرأة، الرباط، 29 شتنبر 2011

[22]انظر: التنسيقيةالوطنيةللمبادرةالوطنيةللتنميةالبشرية، “تعزيزالحقوقالإجتماعيةوالإقتصاديةللمرأةفيصميمالأهدافالرئيسيةللمبادرة”، مارس 2021. (

[23]انظر: الصحراء، “قطاعاتحكوميةومؤسساتوطنيةتنخرطفيعمليةتنزيلورشالحمايةالاجتماعية”، فبراير 2021، (

[24]انظر جريدةالاقتصادية، “المجلسالعلميالأعلىيصفصاحبفتوىزواجالقاصراتبأنهفتانوضال”،ماي 2009. (

[25]انظر: الحسنأبويحيى، “تدخلملكييحسمجدلالإجهاضبالمغرب”، موقع الجزيرة، ماي 2015.(

[26]– الجمعية الديمقراطية لنساء المغرب. مذكرة موجهة للجنة الاستشارية لمراجعة الدستور. (

[27]منتدى الزهراء للمرأة المغربية. مذكرة منتدى الزهراء للمرأة المغربية حول التعديلات الدستورية (

[28][28]- هيئة المناصفة ومكافحة كل أشكال التمييز. منهجية إعداد مشروع القانون ومسار التشاور. (

[29][29]- رأي المجلس الاقتصادي والاجتماعي والبيئي في مشروع القانون رقم 78.14 المتعلق بالمجلس الاستشاري للأسرة والطفولة (

[30] Moroccan constitution

[31]Ilyass Bouzghaia “Whose Gender Equality? On the Boundaries of Islam and Feminism in the MENA Region” in Double-Edged Politicson Women’s Rights in the MENA Region, ed.  H. Darhour and D. Dahlerup (Gender and Politics Series, Palgrave Macmillan. Switzerland AG, 2020), pp 71-93.

[32] Hajar Raissouni was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to one year in jail on the charge of illegal abortion and sex outside marriage. Her case drew large-scale solidarity as the motives for her arrests had political motives in view of her job as a journalist in a renowened newspaper that is critical towards the state. Her uncle Ahmed Raissouni, head of the international Union of Muslim Ulema, is known for his stands that oppose the choices of the state.

[33]– انظر بلاغ وزارة العدل بهذا الخصوص: (

[34] Mohammed Masbah, Is Raisouni’s Pardon Simply Playing Politics in Morocco?, November 4, 2019, Chatham House

[35]Gender Relations and Social Values in Morocco Prospects of “Third way” Islamic Feminism.:

[36]ZakiaSalime. “The War on Terrorism: Appropriation and Subversion by Moroccan Women”. SIGNS v33n1. 2007

[37]SouadEddouada and Renata Pepicelli, Morocco: Towards an Islamic State Feminism. Publication. SciencePO, 2012. Web. <>. 2012.

[38]Tripp Aili. Seeking Legitimacy: Why Arab Autocracies Adopt Women’s Rights. Cambridge University Press. 2019.

[39] An interview conducted with Asma Lamrabet on August 1, 2017, in Rabat.

[40][40]- Doris Gray and Habiba Boumlik, “Morocco’s Islamic Feminism”, in D. Gray & N. Sonneveld (Eds.), Women and Social Change in North Africa: What Counts as Revolutionary? 119-142, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018),

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