I’m sitting at lunch with Ahmed Abbadi at lunch in Rabat, Morocco. He bears a mild resemblance to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His English is precise, and he is extraordinarily well versed not only in his own field of Islamic studies, but also in other religious ideas including the work of Martin Buber, a modern Jewish philosopher and father of Judaism’s reconstructionist movement. Abbadi is the head of the Muhammadan League of Religious Scholars. That group is responsible for training scholars, operating schools, answering questions about Islam from ordinary citizens, chairing religious conferences and, most important, training imams from Morocco and around the world.
In explaining Morocco’s unique history and its own brand of Islam, Abbadi makes clear that the West’s vision of radical, inflexible Islam is a far cry from the mind-set of ordinary Moroccans. These are a faithful, practicing Muslim people, but they do not view Islam as requiring a theocracy, nor do they see it as incompatible with the modern world.