According to the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Postsecondary Level Program Country descriptions of the seminar Religious Diversity in the Maghreb: Morocco and Tunisia –
“The Maghreb, North Africa’s rim set between seas and desert, holds a present and a past that illuminate the diversity of religious traditions in western Islam. Morocco and Tunisia provide insights into the roles that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have played in a part of the world that is at the same time African, Mediterranean, Arab, and Berber. This seminar seeks to draw lessons focusing on religious tolerance among the faiths in shared environments.
The major faith of the region, Islam, will be seen in both countries through the lens of its own diversity. In Morocco, participants will travel through time to discover in Fez how Islam was implanted in the “far west” of the Islamic world. At the same time, the focus of the diversity of faith within Islam will be revealed through the exploration of the religious orders of North Africa, the zaouia-s, and their significance in contemporary Morocco.
These themes will connect with Islamic history as revealed in the landscapes and communities of Tunisia. Participants will visit the “beacon” of early Islam in the West, Kairouan, and explore Kairouan’s role in establishing Islam in the Maghreb. The Zeitouna mosque in Tunis and early Islamic ribat-s (fortresses) along the Tunisian coast will allow participants to develop a picture of the Islamizing landscapes of the 8th-11th centuries. Tunisian Islamic training and practice, as organized today, will feature a visit to the Karaouine University in Tunis and meeting students understanding the role of Tunisia’s Kharijite community, a school of Islamic tradition separate from either Sunni or Shi-ite Islam.
At the same time, Tunisia and Morocco’s Jewish communities, past and present, form an integral part of “Religious Diversity in the Maghreb.” In Morocco, the life of the historical Jewish community of Fez will be contrasted with efforts to preserve the Moroccan community’s heritage at the Jewish Museum in Casablanca. This theme of understanding the Maghreb’s Jewish past and present continues on in Djerba, Tunisia where participants will visit the synagogue reputed to represent the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world.
Coupled with the role of Jewish and Islamic life in the Maghreb is that of Christianity, which has been present in North Africa since early times and experienced periods of great expansion and contraction. Today’s Catholic church and its role in Morocco and Tunisia will be understood through attendance at services in Rabat and Tunis and, like our exploration of other faiths, lectures and readings on the subject.
The program will feature nearly four weeks in Morocco and will be based in the capital, Rabat. The group will receive lessons in basic spoken Moroccan Arabic and will learn the alphabet through the use of the text, Alif Ba. Formal lectures and assigned readings on key subjects will take place as the group moves through its program, both at its Rabat base and on the road. Travel in Morocco will include trips to Fez and Casablanca. Travel to Tunisia by air in the middle of the fourth week will allow participants approximately ten days on the ground in Tunisia, during which most time will be spent in travel. Return to Rabat and home base will permit approximately five full days for work on the participants’ projects and reflection at the end of the program. An academic expert will accompany the group throughout the entire program.”