“The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U. “They will know more than government officials will about problems that might be cropping up and they also have a way to intervene in a way government people wouldn’t be able to …
to steer somebody who is at risk of taking a wrong path and bringing them back into the fold.” President Trump recently stripped funding from several groups aiming to counter extremism through this kind of outreach. Through various experimental initiatives, the country is attempting to show how a certain kind of religious education can prevent extremism.
It turns young women into religious scholars and then sends them out into pockets of the country where radical Islamists are known to recruit disenfranchised youth—to provide spiritual guidance that contradicts the messages they might receive from violent extremists.
Making school visits and home visits, each woman—called a , or spiritual guide—talks to young Muslims and contests interpretations of the Quran that terrorist groups use for recruitment.
“It probably helped that we didn’t argue with [the young people we talked to],” she said. Radical Islamists offer them community and tell them that a full-throated embrace of their religion—an embrace that includes violence against nonbelievers—is the solution.To be eligible, students must have already completed an undergraduate degree and be in good standing in their communities—without, for example, a criminal record.Successful women candidates must have committed half the Quran to memory they arrive; men, many of whom will go on to become imams, must have it memorized in its entirety.It was, she recalled with a smile, her very first radicalization case.As Hidra continued her work in Casablanca, she faced resistance.“Women, just by virtue of their role in society, have so much contact with the people—children, young people, other women, even men. “We give them an education so they can offer it in a scholarly way.”The morchidat program leverages a woman’s familial and social influence to combat radical Islam at the level of the sidewalks—and at individual mosques.“We’ve found over the years that if we have women organize something at the mosque, 450 people show up.This is an important requirement because it typically takes years to memorize the Quran, and if incoming students are already deeply familiar with the texts, the center can focus on interpretation instead of memorization. The Moroccan government picks up the tab for tuition, room and board, books, medical care, flights home, and small monthly stipends.Of the roughly 250 new students accepted each year, nearly half are women.There is no strict segregation of the sexes, but there is separation.Men and women attend classes together in the same modern lecture hall, and women fill the last 10 rows in the back.