Dr. Idris Lakrini, the Director of the Laboratory for Constitutional Studies, Crisis Analysis and Policy (LECACP), Cadi Ayyad University, Morocco
Moroccan Islamist movements, like all similar movements in the Arab region, were inspired by Muslim Brotherhood literature, particularly that of the group’s pioneers, such as Sheikh Hassan al-Banna, Sayed Qutb, and Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed al-Rashid.  These movements also drew upon Morocco’s established intellectual heritage, particularly graduates of the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, which produced many scholars and intellectuals well-versed in many subjects, including Islamic theology.
Groups such as Adl wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity) group, founded by Sheikh Abdeslam Yassin in 1973, and the Unity and Reform Movement (1996) the advocacy wing of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), were able to draw on such Islamist ideologues and successfully integrate them to existing political, social, and cultural situations. As a result, these groups gained popularity and followers, while appealing to scholars, intellectuals, and activists at home and abroad.
Over the decades, these Islamist movements faced several turning points that impacted their respective paths. For example, when the constitution was amended to prevent the establishment of political parties on religious or ethnic grounds and the King bolstered his involvement in the state’s constitutional and political affairs, the ability of these movements to freely operate in society was curtailed.
Understanding the ideological foundations of Islamist movements in Morocco is important because it helps observers understand the way these group think and the extent to which they are affected by their surroundings, while also predicting the groups’ future positions and fates.
Some scholars trace the roots of the Islamist movements in Morocco to nationalists and others argue that these groups were founded on anti-Western principles which reject modernity. Meanwhile, others maintain that the group was inspired by the Leftist tide and the Iranian Revolution.
Before and after Morocco’s independence, Islam was integral in the lives of many statesmen—intellectuals, politicians, and nationalists alike. While Islamic organizations and groups were not prominent during this period, the era produced Islamic scholars, jurists, and politicians such as Abdullah Kanoun, al-Mokhtar Soussi and Allal al-Fassi. 
Books written by Muslim Brotherhood leaders—Al-Banna, Qutb, Al-Rashed, Fathi Yakan, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, among others—have clearly influenced the intellectual and educational foundations of the Islamic movements in Morocco, and also shaped the social, cultural, political, and constitutional environment in which they emerged.
In its infancy, the Muslim youth movement in Morocco, much like its counterparts in various regions of the world, relied on the intellectual and jurisprudential opinions developed by the Brotherhood, which was founded by Al-Banna in Egypt in the late 1920s, as well as those developed by Abul A’la al-Mawdudi beginning in 1941, to establish its intellectual foundations. Later, the movement—under political and social pressure—discarded certain aspects of the original Brotherhood movement, especially those involving covert and violent operations to achieve its goals.
Charting a Different Path
While Islamic movements in Morocco have taken cues and inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood and experiments with political Islam in Tunisia and Sudan, they have been able to chart multiple and different paths from those of foreign movements, according to some researchers. This was possible thanks to the intellectual contributions made by several scholars and leaders of these groups which, in many respects, are linked to the specificity of Moroccan society and to the constitutional checks and balances that frame the political life of the country.
However, other researchers believe that while Islamists in Morocco have been able to achieve a certain level of ideological, intellectual, and political independence, maintaining relationships with different governments and actively seeking integration into society despite the difficulties and constraints, the influence of Eastern Islamic groups should not be underestimated. 
Despite certain similarities that the Islamic movements in the Arab region and beyond share in terms of ideology, discourse, tactics, and positions on a number of political issues, there are many different aspects that distinguish them, given the specific social, economic, and cultural environments in which they operate, and the constitutional and political forces that monitor and control their movements.
While some Islamic movements continue to advocate traditional anti-democratic policies—namely, the return of the caliphate—others have adopted more flexible positions that allow them to openly participate in the political landscape in a number of states.
While some Islamist groups in Morocco, such as the Justice and Charity group, operate outside of the law, others, like the PJD, have been accepted into political life. PJD is recognized by the state, participates in elections, and is represented at local and national functions. As a result, the party’s discourse also changed and many of its core ideologies have been reformed. The implications of its participation in government work—with the accompanying internal and external pressures—have been evident in the important intellectual and political makeover the party has undertaken.
Fall From Grace
However, with power comes responsibility and accountability. Being a recognized player in society, the PJD has faced multiple accusations from observers and critics alike. Some academics say the group—in its transition from opposition to power—has lost touch with societal issues and grievances that originally animated it, while others accuse the group of ambiguity in their set beliefs. The group has also been criticized for failing to separate advocacy from politics.
Because of its participation in Morocco’s political landscape, the PJD has gradually moved from local politics to government work. As a result, its ability to manage and stay on top of public grievances has waned. Because it moved from the comfortable position of opposition, in which it merely put forward slogans and criticized opponents and various public policies, to being in a position of power where it is held accountable for societal challenges and problems, it has found itself struggling. As a result, the group often appears confused and unable to put forth a magic solution to address society’s complex problems.
The end-result is a party that has lost popularity with the people that elected them to serve two legislative mandates and lead two consecutive governments. This is evident in their performance in the country’s most recent elections, held on 8 September 2021, where the party came in eighth place and only managed to secure thirteen seats, which is not even enough to form a parliamentary bloc.
The full report is available in Arabic:
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 Dr. Munir Al-Rakraki, member of the Guidance Council of (the Justice and Charity Group), states that “Imam (meaning Sheikh Abdeslam Yassin the supreme guide of the group) has paid tribute to the methods of prominent advocates, such as Mustafa Sadiq Al-Rafi, Sayed Qutb, Muhammad Ahmad Al-Rashed, Abdullah Al-Tantawi, Saleh Al-Ashmawi, and Ahmad Shawqi. See the script of the dialogue with him (Dr. Munir Al-Rakraki) published on January 18, 2014, at: https://shortest.link/2y-I
 Muhammad Al Khlouki: Challenges of the Islamic Experiment in Morocco (Critical study), BARQ For Research & Studies, 02 February 2017, at: https://shortest.link/2qiz
 Muqtadir, R. The transformation of the Moroccan Islamic experiment, as part of the book titled Beyond Political Islam: A new Phase or Ideological Delusions? Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Jordan, Jordan, 2018, p. 116.