Spiritual healers in Morocco, Sudan committing sexual abuse, investigation reveals
The investigation, conducted by the BBC, gathered testimonies from 85 women who named 65 healers in both Morocco and Sudan, accusing them of sexual abuse ranging from harassment to rape.
The practice of spiritual healing, Ruqyah, is popular in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Most of those who go are women, who believe that healers can solve problems, cure illnesses, and expel spirits known as jinn from them.
One Sudanese healer who was named by the investigation as Sheikh Ibrahim was mentioned by three women.
An undercover reporter went to investigate but fled the scene after he attempted to inappropriately touch her. He stated that she "was really shaken by him," and that "he had a worrying look about him."
In a later interview with the BBC the Sheikh denied the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, as well as what happened between the reporter and himself.
In a separate incident in Morocco, a woman under the pseudonym Dalal said she was raped by a spiritual healer after seeking help for depression. She claimed she was drugged by the healer who asked her to smell a scent resulting in a loss of consciousness.
After waking up she realised she had been raped, with the healer claiming the assault was to "make the jinn leave [her] body." Her subsequent pregnancy was blamed on the jinn by the healer. She later gave up the baby for adoption.
Women who have suffered abuse from healers say that they are afraid to tell authorities or even family members for fear of being blamed for what took place. In the case of Dalal, she feared her family would kill her if they found out what happened.
Authorities in Morocco and Sudan have shown reluctance to regulate the practice. Speaking to the BBC the head of the Family and Society department in Sudan, Dr Alaa Abu Zeid, admitted that the lack of regulation was "causing chaos," although he said that it wasn't a priority because of the ongoing conflict in the country.
In Morocco, Ahmed Toufiq, the minister of Islamic Affairs, said that "the solution lies in religious education and preaching," rather than government legislation regulating the practice of healing.