King Charles III, Fez and Sufi culture

In the following interview, Professor Faouzi Skali announces the 15th edition of the Sufi Culture Festival to be held from October 22 to 29, 2022 in Fez. The opportunity for Maroc-Diplomatique to question him about King Charles III’s visit to Fez in April 2011 where he attended a Sufi cultural event. An event which, in the light of British news, takes on particular importance. Faouzi Skali founded and directed the Festival of Sacred Music of the World which he directed from 1994 to 2014. He currently chairs the Festival of Sufi Culture.

Interview conducted by Taoufiq Boudchiche

  • First of all, as an anthropologist, can you tell us how you view the news of a people who mourn their Beloved Queen and have just crowned Charles III as the new King of the United Kingdom. Could you enlighten us on this?

What Europe and the West are discovering on this occasion, and through the very emotion that this arouses throughout the world, is the importance of certain institutions which maintain a form of transcendence over time and therefore involve a continuity of culture and civilization in a kind of novel or collective national imagination. We are struck to see with what fascination mixed with a form of envy and admiration for this country, the French for example, follow through the media, this news from the United Kingdom which shows how it has been able to preserve this continuity and give it a form of sacredness. Not in the religious sense of the term but by the fact that it is considered, whatever the political opinions elsewhere, as a common good or heritage. The late Queen embodied this role and this function to the highest degree. But it is also the result of a very subtle, very ritualized cultural elaboration which has been accomplished gradually over the centuries. For in England, as elsewhere, history was full of tragedies and hazards. At times like this one realizes the importance of symbols that establish feelings of belonging to a common destiny and the historical singularity of a civilization.

  • You mention the importance of a cultural and spiritual heritage, what about the next edition of the Sufi Culture Festival of which you are the President and which is preparing its next edition from October 22 to 29 under the title “Science and awareness ” ?

The culture of Sufism is indeed a kind of DNA that has sculpted for centuries the spiritual identity of Islam in Morocco and made it a vector of civilization. When His Majesty as Amir Al Mouminine had installed the Superior Council of Ulemas in Tetouan, he had particularly insisted on this Sufi and spiritual dimension of Islam in Morocco alongside the other Malikite and Achaarite dimensions. It is in fact a living culture which ensures historical and spiritual continuity but also which is capable of permanent creativity and renewal. This is what we try to reflect in each edition. Our Moroccan culture is impregnated with this form of spiritual humanism carried by the values ​​and a dynamic thought of Sufism. This is what we will try to address this year through the theme “Science and consciousness”.

  • The international vocation of Maroc Diplomatique encourages us to ask you about your vision of cultural diplomacy, a factor of knowledge and influence of the Kingdom abroad..

Morocco as a Kingdom has a real vision to promote both domestically and internationally. That precisely of a policy and a vision of the world based on universal values ​​founded on an Islam of the Enlightenment and a spiritual humanism for our time. It is a vision and a strategy which are not circumstantial but which are part of a real depth of field of our Moroccan history. Major initiatives of His Majesty are driven by this vision, which is now enshrined in the Moroccan Constitution. It is she who is at the base of the governance of cults and cultures which establishes their diversity as an opportunity for the evolution and development of our Moroccan civilization. Because we must not confuse as such Sufism which is a Muslim spirituality and the Sufi culture which is open by definition to other cultures and spiritualities. This vision of Morocco has something real to contribute to our humanity and can be shared with great interest on an international scale.

  • To return to the United Kingdom, has the Festival of Sufi Culture built ties and friendships faithful to Moroccan and Sufi culture in particular?

I would like to point out that I left the Sacred Music Festival in 2014 after founding the Sufi Culture Festival. In relation to this period, it is a pleasure for me to share with you some notable memories. In particular, that of the initiative of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, who had made a point of associating from the beginning of the Festival of Sacred Music the Prince of Wales, the current King Charles III, with the creation of this event by inviting him to be the Co-President of the Honorary Committee. It is also remarkable that a few years later the Prince of Wales made a point of sending a video recording to His Majesty’s address as well as to the participants of the Festival from a place in the Palace which he had called “his garden Islamic”. This garden recalls in its design a patio or a Hispano-Moorish Riad, similar to our Riads. In this video which was broadcast on the spot to the participants of the Festival but also on the airwaves of Moroccan television, King Charles III evoked the magnificent patio of the Batha Palace and its multi-centenary tree at the foot of which took place the concerts and especially the Festival lectures. He mentioned the desire to go there one day to attend a concert of Sufi songs at the foot of this same tree. And this is exactly what was going to happen when the Prince of Wales at the time went on an official visit to Morocco and then went to Fez where a concert of Sufi songs was organized on April 6, 2011 with the participation of the Ibn Arabi group and the whole of samaa al Boussiri of Fez. The question of dialogue between the West and Islam has always been one of the great centers of interest of the new monarch of the United Kingdom (about which he has written several articles, including one in a book dedicated to the Festival, entitled Spirit of Fez), as well as his interest in Sufi spirituality. King Charles III was accompanied by his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, during this trip to Fez, and by two other personalities who were very close to him, connoisseurs of Sufism, including Sir Nick Pearson, Director of the TEMENOS Center, then chaired by the Prince of Wales, the newly crowned King Charles III amid great popular fervor.

King Charles III, Fez and Sufi culture