I have called this an interim report in the hope that I may be able to
draft a more concise workplan in a prospective research agenda for the Moroccan
team working on Women in Islam, and affiliated to the Zahira Abdin Chair. I hope
to be able to do that by early 2000. In the meantime I have set up a more
structured chain of responsibility there and have provided them with the means
to install the elements for reliable communication with the outside world. I
have also arranged for some administrative support to back up the team. The
present structure includes an academic advisor for the group, a chief
administrator, and a research liason. The key person through whom I hope to
maintain contact is the executive, or chief administrator, who is also in a
position to ensure the performance in the other two roles. This way I hope to
have helped resolve some of the problems encountered in the past.
The objective of this report was to fill out the background on the origins of
this initiative and to outline the context in which it is working. While most of
the members of the team are graduates trained in Islamic studies, a few are from
other fields, in time I hope to diversify contacts and recruits to reach out to
a wider circle. For now however given the priorities of our research agenda, our
present team fulfills its purpose and nicely supplements the work in Cairo.
Again, most of those currently working on assigned research tracks may be
considered 'temporary', an unstable pool recruited for a specific task.
Hopefully after this visit, matters will be different.
I am expecting written reports on the material presented at the workshop,
together with the transcripts and a general report. Following that there will be
a more thorough assessment of the situation there, and a new policy will be
considered so as to ensure a modicum of commitment that can secure the
continuity of our efforts. For one thing, in the aftermath of these reports, I
hope to identify those elements who may constitute our core group in this
region. This will of course entail, among other things, a more rigorous
budgeting of our available meager resources, and some 'honoraria' and periodic
small grants will be considered to cover expenses and provide symbolic material
incentives: in what is otherwise designed as a voluntary effort. Up to this
point, the efforts expended there may be considered to have served us as a
measuring rod, or a feasibility field study, that precedes the actual workplan.
In this case, the approach differs from my initiative in Cairo.
Here as in Cairo however, I have made it clear that our resources are
extremely thin, so expectations are realistic and so far, enthusiasm and
commitment are good. I have a strategy of mobilizing some local resources to
support the work we do there and this is appreciated by those involved in the
project. We have gone about this in Cairo by launching an NGO that might in time
bring in some funds for our activities. I hope to do something similar in
Morocco, though the set up there is somewhat different. I have also launched
some research strategies to try and mobilize a local constituency into
supporting the research and training forums we are setting up. I do not expect
such initiatives to bear fruit in the short term. For now we will have to invest
the best we can in the mileage of our sparse dollars. The backbone of current
efforts in both Cairo and Morocco remains largely voluntary and relies on the
good will of a few dedicated enthusiasts. However, to institutionalize we will
need more than that and the School is expected to do what it can to support these initiatives.
meantime, the work begun must go on and, barring some exceptional impediment,
will not be stopped or delayed for want of funds.
At least this seems to be the message that comes from the field!