Morocco to build new mosques to fight radicals

Reuters/July 23, 2004

Rabat -- Morocco's King Mohammed ordered 20 new mosques built in poor areas of large cities on Friday in a move to counter radical Islamic preaching at illegal mosques.

Twelve Islamic suicide bombers who killed 33 people in Casablanca last year came from shanty towns where, a government investigation found, they had been "brainwashed" by radical clerics in makeshift mosques.

Hundreds of similar mosques have proliferated in several cities across the North African country over the past 20 years.

Friday's announcement was part of an emergency programme to build "proper mosques... to gradually eradicate the phenomenon of sites unfit for worship", the Religious Affairs Ministry said.

The king unveiled a series of reforms to religious affairs in April aimed at restoring Islam's image, which he said had been tarnished by "extremists" and "blind terrorism".

Construction of the new mosques will begin next year.

Up to two-thirds of Morocco's 32,000 mosques are managed by private donors, though the government officially oversees them.

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