Moroccan Sufi Order Accuses Algerian Rival of Plotting Religious Coup

Rabat – Redouane Yassine, the spokesperson of the order Soufia Alaouia Maghribiya, has once again accused Algerian ascetic Khaled Bentounès of trying to get control of the Moroccan order’s zawiyas in order to serve his country’s anti-Morocco agenda.Bentounèes has presented himself as the spiritual head of the Shadhiliyah Darqawiya Alawiya order since 1975.His leadership, however, is contested by the Soufia Alaouia Maghribiya, which claims Bentounès is exploiting the historical connections between the two orders in plans to establish himself as a leader of the Moroccan order and appoint deputies in his favor. “This is dangerous,” Yassine told Moroccan news website Hespress in an article published on Thursday. He accused the Algerian ascetic of receiving foreign money to carry out an ostensible Algeria plot with the help of alleged partners within Morocco.On August 4, the judiciary police in Taourirt, northeastern Morocco, interrogated Bentounès and other persons over allegations they had forged a document claiming that the Moroccan Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs had recognized him as the head of the Shadhiliyah Darqawiya Alawiya, local online news outlet Taourirtplus reported.The ministry issued a statement on Monday denying the authenticity of the document.Yassine has directed similar accusations at Bentounèes for close to a decade, which the Algerian has continually refuted.In 2010, Moroccan news website Nador City reported that Bentounès, during a conference in Tangier, denied the allegations he is serving an Algerian agenda, calling the accusations void.He said that the Alawiya order “has always a good relation with Moroccan kings and people.”The forged document however casts doubt over the Algerian ascetic’s motives in Morocco.Both Morocco and Algeria have a rich history of Sufism. Though mainly playing a religious and spiritual role, zawiyas have historically had a varying degree of political influence.Sufism is part of Morocco’ soft diplomacy, especially in Western Africa, where millions of Muslims follow the Tijaniyyah order. Its adherents hold King Mohammed VI in high regards and see him as a spiritual leader.Algeria is trying to claim legitimacy over the order, as the founder of the Tijaniyyah, Ahmad al-Tijani (1737–1815), was born in Algeria but his movement started in Morocco. He was buried in Fez, Morocco’s spiritual city.However, adherents of Tijaniyyah see the kingdom as a religious center. Morocco has been helping the order in its mission to teach Islam by building centers and training imams who belong to the order.

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