Dynastic Sacredness: Islam and the Arab Spring in Morocco
The ruling dynasty of Morocco is one of very few that tracks its royal bloodline back to the Prophet Muhammad himself. Did this lineage contribute to the fact that the North African monarchy was barely touched by the tumultuous Arab Spring of 2011–12? This article challenges such assertions. Despite its divine inception, Moroccan royal power survived the era of modernity solely thanks to the French, who invested in their colony during the protectorate (1912–56). It was France that elevated the royals and allowed for the throne to become the pillar of Moroccan nationalism. This venerable lineage would have been futile had the royal family not learned the sophisticated methods of political struggle against its competitors. The dynasty established a unique system of holding the opposition back in such a way that it simultaneously becomes a bulwark of the state’s stability. In addition, the bureaucratization of Islam became a key tool in the Moroccan state-building arsenal: Religious practice can be conducted only in accordance with the government rulebook. In other words, Morocco’s present-day stability has nothing to do with religion itself, but rather with politics—and the last North African monarchy might still see an Arab Spring awakening.