Salsa festival in Morocco stirs controversy

Islamic scholars say dance violates sharia


Marrakesh will host its first international salsa festival amid controversy as officials and religious leaders expressed dismay over the city’s hosting of a festival devoted to the sexy Latin dance.

The festival, which runs Oct. 8-12, features 100 dancers from Cuba, Mexico, Los Angeles, New York, Oslo, Milan, including Francisco Vasquez and Alex da Silva, choreographers for Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. The contestants will also give salsa classes to students of Moroccan universities.

But some locals voiced objections that the dance is un-Islamic and violates local social norms.

One Islamic scholar said the salsa festival violates sharia Islamic law. Mohamed Al-Taweel, pprofessor of jurisprudence at the University of al-Karaouine said that the festival is sinful for a number if reasons, no the least of which is the mingling between men and women.

Moroccan sheikh Abdul-Bari al-Zamzami, a member of the Moroccan Scholars Association, told that the festival promotes vice among the youth, who are easily deceived by such Western activities.

Other officials disagreed, however, noting that the festival promotes intercultural understanding and artistic expression.

"I do not think that the salsa festival has a negative impact on Morocco,” Nabil Benabdallah, a former minister of communication, told

But Islamic preacher Mohamed al-Amrawi argued that activities which violate decency and promote vice among youth are prohibited by law.

"Moroccan youth should be trained in different scientific and creative fields,” he told

Besides promoting vice, Taweel said he also thinks the festival is an unnecessary waste of money, thrown away just to give the West the impression that Morocco is a liberal, accommodating country.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

I do not think that the salsa festival has a negative impact on Morocco

Nabil Benabdallah, former minister of communication