Mohammed Masbah

Mohammed Masbah

Marilyn and Terry Diamond Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center.


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Morocco's Salafi Ex-Jihadis: Co-optation, Engagement, and the Limits of Inclusion

Mohammed Masbah
Middle East Brief 108, April 2017


In the wake of the political protests that erupted in Morocco in 2011, King Mohammed VI issued royal pardons in March 2011 and February 2012 to a group of prominent Salafi ex-Jihadis, that is – Salafi Jihadis who had renounced violence. He offered to release them from prison on the condition that they either remain apolitical or participate in the legal political process. The offer was part of the monarchy’s broader effort to battle and defeat extremism. This significant policy shift – allowing Salafis to take part in mainstream politics – has been attributed by seasoned observers to the regime’s inclusiveness, and it allowed Salafi ex-Jihadis to enjoy the benefits associated with becoming legal political actors. In this Brief, Mohammed Masbah argues that the political participation of prominent Salafi ex-Jihadi sheikhs within the regime’s predefined framework seems to have been counterproductive. Rather than leading to the moderation of Salafi former detainees, it has instead alienated their ideological base, thereby shrinking the scope of these sheikhs' influence on their followers and preventing the government from controlling the actions of radicals and stemming the flow of Moroccan youth to conflicts abroad. 

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