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Project August 2, 2022

An Emerging Moroccan Identity: Modernity, Language, and Religion


plaza with view of water and sunset
Sunset at the kasbah, overlooking a nation of tradition and modernity. Image by Safi El-Gamal. Morocco, 2022.

In the field of religious studies, numerous scholars define the concept of modernity as the heightened plenitude and potency of individual choice.  Liberation from authority produces a sense of entitlement and assuredness that our choices in this carefully crafted world of individualism truly empower ourselves.

This secular modern age removes religion from the public sphere, but furthermore acknowledges divine guidance as merely another option and relinquishes the discernment of true reality within all parts of society.

Western modernity now seeps into various pockets of the world, and with it, calls for secularization.  A phenomenon present in the Arab World, westernization and a more “rational and inclusive” way to deal with the ethics of society have pervaded the new generation’s way of thinking.  However, these findings are more nuanced than what Western perception may lead us to believe.

Yet, as the diagram shows, youth in Morocco may be actively Westernizing and modernizing, fostering heightened use of English; however, many do not fully embrace modernity. They realize that superimposing a direct image of Western modern thought may not be possible in a society like Morocco, with Islamic roots in history, politics, and social tradition.  

Safi El-Gamal reports on this emerging dichotomy, of the balance between the youth’s advocacy for modernization (evident in the pregalence of English), but also the common need to preserve religion in the social sphere, a need contingent on the preservation of authentic Moroccan culture.  Furthermore, various youth find ways to use religion in support of their social agenda, promoting inclusivity and modern ideals of pluralist identity.


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teal halftone illustration of two children, one holding up a teddy bear


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