general research interests.

Religion and Politics, the War on Terror, Islam, Islamic education, Islamic scholarship, authoritarianism, Morocco, Iraq

Bureaucratizing Islam: Morocco and the war on terror

Forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.
See the preview on Amazon.

In the years since 9/11, governments in countries with large Muslim populations have explored a number of policy responses to Islamic extremism. The Arab Uprisings, which erupted in 2011 and 2012 across North Africa and the Middle East, further complicated government responses to terrorism. For at the very moment when populations were seeking more freedom, states felt pressure to take greater control over the religious spheres in their countries. While many states took advantage of the anxiety caused by terrorism to crack down on domestic political opposition, Morocco intensified its practice of incorporating religious institutions into the state bureaucracy. The state now controls a host of Islamic institutions for such varied purposes as training religious scholars and imams, producing Islamic education curricula for public schools, and facilitating religious collaboration with neighboring countries in North and West Africa. The Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs defends this approach as a means of promoting a “moderate” and “tolerant” Islam, though the actual affect is that the state can now produce its own loyal religious elites.

This book analyzes Morocco’s unique counter-terrorism strategy, arguing that the approach not only gave the state more control over religious practice in the country, it also provided incentives for religious elites to become and remain loyal to the state's project. By building a religious bureaucracy, rather than targeting political dissidents, Morocco has achieved the same effect as other countries’ War on Terror policies, limiting opposition, but has done so through a form of institutional control that is likely to be more sustainable than other countries’ policies.

The book is based on 18 months experience of living and learning in the country with a rich variety of primary sources including government documents and curricula materials. I also include interviews with significant members of the religious and political bureaucracy and scholarship compiled by Moroccan think tanks and researchers.

Journal article

Defending Islamic education: War on Terror discourse and the politics of public religious education in contemporary Morocco

This article in the Journal of North African Studies is one of the first scholarly publications to evaluate the effects of the War on Terror on a Muslim country. Specifically, it assesses how the popular belief that Islamic education causes violence shaped educational reforms in Morocco in 2004. After a major terrorist attack in Casablanca in 2003, educational reforms that were already underway became politicized. Some called for the removal or reform of Islamic education curricula in the public schools. Beyond demonstrating how this global discourse was localized in the Moroccan context, the article discusses the voices of those who defended the subject from criticism and eventually, reform.

Through interviews and archival research, this article reconstructs the defense of Islamic education marshaled by its supporters and assesses its impact on resulting curricula. I find that the Ministry of Education acted with deference to the Islamic education teachers' demands, accelerating reforms already underway, rather than rewriting curricula. Unexpectedly, the Ministry made more substantial changes to ‘secular’ school subjects. The Moroccan case suggests that War on Terror discourse influences educational policy in Muslim societies, though these processes are shaped by pre-existing reforms and the activities of local activists.

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Book Chapters

“Islamic modernism, political reform and the Arabisation of education: The relationship between Moroccan nationalists and al-Azhar University” in Shaping Global Islamic Discourses: The Role of al-Azhar, al-Medina, and al-Mustafa. eds. Masooda Bano and Keiko Sakurai. Edinburgh University Press. 2015.

“State Autonomy and Societal Transformation: Twentieth Century Reforms to Islamic Education in Morocco” in Reforms in Islamic Education: International Perspectives. ed. Charlene Tan. Bloomsbury Academic. 2014

Book Reviews

Zakia Salime. 2011. Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. in Hypatia Reviews Online.

Lisa Stampnitzky. 2015. Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism”. New York: Cambridge University Press. in Terrorism and Political Violence.

Mamadou Diouf. Ed. 2013. Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal. New York: Columbia University Press. in Islamic Africa.

current projects.


The Third Pole - argues that Morocco is trying to position itself as the third pole in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.