Thursday, July 07, 2011

Berber Recognition in Morocco

Younes Abouyoub analyzes an aspect of the new Moroccan constitution I hadn't heard about:
"Most Moroccans applaud—and rightly so—the bold decision of King Mohamed VI to include in the preamble of the newly proposed constitution the official recognition of Tamazight as a state language alongside Arabic, the first official acknowledgement of Amazigh (Berber) identity on a constitutional level in a North African country. In fact, this inclusion is what some analysts have speculated led to the overwhelming approval of the July 1 constitutional referendum; Thomson Reuters reported that 98.5 percent of the population voted in favor, with a 73 percent turnout of registered voters. Skeptics cast doubts over that figure, citing voting irregularities, and point out that the king’s play of the Berber identity card is no more than a bid to pass off a cosmetically new constitution while holding on to his monarchy. Those who are more cynical suggest that the consequences might be dire, and lead Morocco down the road to the Algerian model of tension between those of Arab and Berber origins...

"The recognition of Tamazight is quite a shift; as recently as 2005, when Amazigh activists Ahmed Dgharni and Omar Louzi attempted to launch a political movement advocating Berber identity, their Moroccan Amazigh Democrat Party (PDAM) was banned by the Ministry of the Interior in 2007, and later legally dissolved on the grounds that ethnic-based parties were (and still are) prohibited in Morocco...

"While historically different than Algeria, Morocco is not immune to a possible rift between what have hitherto been two fluid identities if the ongoing political reforms fail to deliver a truly citizen-based identity. Amazigh activists and pan-Arabists across Morocco have returned to the question of identity politics along the divisive model: within the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), scholars question whether Morocco rightly belongs to the 'Arab world,' while pan-Arab activists respond that Morocco’s Islamic identity is proof enough, accusing IRCAM of fostering ethnic divisions by choosing the neo-Tifinagh alphabet (rather than the Arabic) to write out Tamazight."

My assumption is that the monarchy is just trying to bolster Berber support.

UPDATE: Here is a Romanian translation of this material.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

finaly Amazigh is recognized :-) Amazigh or berber means (free men)the majority of moroccans are. as they was moving to big cities they was obliged to learn arabic, then after 2 generations some of them lost thier ansestral language, now thaks god, the power of ppl come back, and morocco will rise again as it's trying to reseucite its natural and real ethnecity which is never being or be arab.

4:04 AM  

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