By Mourad Anouar
By Mourad Anouar
Morocco World News
Oklahoma City, March 6, 2012
Writing about the Moroccan Amazigh issues is similar in magnitude and severity to writing about religion in Middle East where any attempt of critical thinking is faced with the same common weapons of blasphemy, ignorance, treason and sometimes even assassination.
To avoid these ready-made accusations, I searched the topic in question in an attempt not to clash with anybody. As you the reader notice, I used the word Amazigh, not Berber, whenever I talk about the indigenous people of Morocco so nobody would feel disparaged nor offended, for I found out that the word “Berber’ is derogatory to some. And in doing so, I was to prove to the reader, especially the Amazigh one, that there was no ill intention behind me tackling this issue.
As I embark on this unpredictable venture, I hope to find a common ground with the Amazigh people, especially the chauvinistic ones. Yes the chauvinistic ones, not Moha, Hma’d neither Hammou, nor Tamo and the list goes on endlessly, for the latter sat next and behind me in classrooms with no hidden agenda. They never tried to stab me. Nor did I. We played soccer in the same field with the same soccer balls. More than once all of us chipped in some money to buy a soccer ball from our neighborhood’s grocery store vendor Si’Omar. We loved and respected each other as we were taught to do so. Stories of a long-lasting co-existence of Arabs and Amazighs in Morocco that started centuries ago are too long to be condensed into an article like this.
But why do they” stab” us now? Do we ever try to steal their dreams for a better life? Did any of us, we the Arabs, manage to boycott An Amazigh? Or did we, we the Arab invaders as some call us, imagine Morocco without Amazighs?
As I tried to dig deep into the possible motives that might drive this minority, I hope so, to embrace such separationist views in a country that has always been welcoming and warm to all people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, I was unable to come up with a legitimate motive.
I asked these questions above because I have recently noticed a dangerous trend followed by “some Amazighs” who even dare to talk about a state for them only, without Arabs. The bellicose mood that started years ago has radically changed into a separationist one, of which no single Moroccan has ever thought.
Personally speaking, I was offended by many things chauvinist Amazighs have said since their issue came to prominence. But for the sake of our valued unity, I ignored the vitriolic rhetoric spewed out by some of them through different types of media that they have access to. On the net where people can enjoy the experience of hit- and run, I always come across very hateful comments where some of them even called on rounding up all Arabs in Morocco and sending them back to where they came from (The Arabic Peninsula). To this point, I considered all that as premature and an online sparring from virtual people.
But the most offensive thing I experienced was the Amazigh flag that is supposed to be representing the” Amasigh nation”. According to Wikipedia,” The Berber flag is a flag that has been proposed for the Berber people”. You may wonder as you condemn this ill-advised move, but the reality is that this flag is to symbolize the Amazigh land. Or, “Tamazgha” as it stated in Wikipedia. To whoever wrote that on Wikipedia, here is a question: Is it a proposed substitute flag for the current Moroccan one? Or, is it for a land that is unheard of?
The first thing I encountered as I searched into this thorny topic is that chauvinistic Amazighs tend to think discussing “the Amazigh issue” is” a restricted turf” for Amazighs only, which struck me as odd and somewhat quixotic. I think that because I am Moroccan in the first place, I am more than entitled to discuss it, as it concerns me as much as it does concern anybody else.
Throwing all these shocking information into the reader’s face, especially the one who has never imagined a split Morocco, is to raise awareness around an issue that we seem to ignore. Now, as you may be offended, or possibly bothered, by all these, I want you to think about the following as you might have experienced the same thing as I did: I was born and raised in Doukkala, where, as most parts of Morocco, Arabs and Amazigh live side by side peacefully. I admit there have been stereotypes exchanged by the two ethnic groups of society, but, thank God, it never amounts to the point where we call it a racial problem in Morocco. We Moroccans like to joke and poke fun at everybody, even ourselves. No hard feelings. I admit I still have this distorted image of the ordinary Amazigh man who spends most of his life toiling in order to save a fortune. The stereotype even goes on to describe him as stingy, modesty-dressed with a European-like skin. Amazighs too, on the other hand, have their stereotyped image of Arabs as being extravagant brown-skinned folks, showy and lust-driven.
The good thing though about all our racial and ethnic differences in Morocco, to my knowledge, is that it has never been used to systematically discriminate against Amazighs, or any other ethnic groups. Even when Pan-Arabism with its many flaws was at its peak, it was never intent on espousing any ideas of relegating Amazighs from their native land. The reason I spoke about the bon temps lived by two of us, Arabs and Morocco, is to ask the chauvinistic Amazighs the following: Why all this now?
As Amazigh separationists seem to be partly influenced by some neighboring ones, such as Copts in Egypt, one wonder if the contagion of separation is an inevitable plague for Middle East countries. History, though, tells us that such movements not only could build no civilization, but it tells also that any entity that aims to be established on chauvinistic grounds is doomed as the case of the Nazi Germany. On the other hand, diversity in races and cultures has always been a valuable asset for prosperity and success. The great civilization built by the Abbasid dynasty owes much of its prosperity to the concept of melting pot where Persians, Turks, Arabs, and Copts and more were able to excel in many literary and scientific fields with no significance given to anybody’s ethnic background.
I always maintain that Morocco’s hidden strengths are not its mines of phosphate, or its boundless shorelines, but rather its ethnically rich culture. We Moroccans should pride on this cherished experience that is a harvest of mutual respect and love dated back centuries.
In this piece I don’t seek to impersonate American politician Joseph McCarthy in his overreacted and unwarranted measures in weeding out all whom he, or I, suspect having ties or sympathy with either then Communism or now new Amazigh chauvinism, nor ask I for putting the chauvinistic Amazighs in concentration camps. But the increasingly heated tone of them is something worth dealing with seriously on the part of the Moroccan government. More seriously is an urgency of emerging rational and wise Amazighs, my childhood friends Mouha, Hammou, Hma’d and Tamo, who are willing seek to find common grounds with Arabs and cope with the differences. One can’t help but to see and hear our long-awaited Amazigh savior, somebody as charismatic and outspoken as the famed Coptic Makram Ebeid Pasha who said in a time Egypt was on the brink of a sectarian war as it is now: “I am a Christian of religion and a Muslim of identity”
Certainly, I don’t want an Amazigh who is ready to lay off his commitment to his ancestral roots. Instead, we are in need of somebody who is blessed with the spirit of willing to bring us together. Somebody who is ready to stand up for his fellow Arabs and tell his chauvinistic fellows: We are all Moroccans before being Arabs or Amazighs.
As we are waiting, I insist on the necessity for an open dialogue between all Moroccans, Amazighs and Arabs, a dialogue aimed at exploring more into our common heritage without a shred of doubt that our glorious past of co-existence is the underpinning for a brighter future together. When we reach that, we will lounge on our sofas and enjoy our music icon Omar Sayed singing without any of us caring if he is Amazigh or an Arab, but rather Moroccan.
Mourad Anouar is a Moroccan writer, novelist and poet. He received his bachelor’s in Journalism and a minor in German from the University of Central Oklahoma. He is the author of several poems and short stories both in Arabic and English.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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