By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, November 24, 2012
Identity is among those evasive concepts that withstand all attempts of definite delineation. Indeed, it is a strenuous process to figure out who you are bearing in mind a miscellaneous array of traits, references and orientations.
Many people can lead their entire lives without engaging in a deep introspection to make sense of their different levels of affiliation but just as one believes that reflecting about identity is a mere luxury, identity manifests itself abruptly and almost unconsciously and unwillingly through language, behavior and social interaction.
National Identity gives often food for thought as it is reconsidered throughout the socialization process as well as the exposure to novel political experiences. The affiliation to a nation is not the blunt belonging to a geographically delineated territory. Indeed, identity is much broader and more intractable than the compelling concept of citizenship or nationality.
Many Moroccans would identify themselves as Arabs or Amazigh before they can ponder their affiliation to Africa. Solidarity among people from different countries can be based on genuine humanistic concerns unaffected by ideological wrangling.
Nonetheless, empathy is often more overt among communities that share similar values or amid countries that have a common historical legacy.
This may account for the burst of compassion expressed by many Muslims and Arabs at the massacre of Muslims in Bosnia or towards the turmoil of Palestinians in Gaza rather than being directly concerned with the Angolan civil war.
Whoever, recently politicians tended to be more vocal about the affiliation of Morocco to the African continent. A few months after his appointment, the minister of foreign affairs Mr. Saad Eddine Al Outhmani described Africa in one of his speeches as “The continent of belonging.” The PJD minister was certainly talking about geographical location that usually gains more importance in geopolitics.
Beyond strategic relations with the rest of Africa, there remains a dangling question that needs to be addressed: How do Moroccans feel about their “Africanness?”
Surprisingly enough, the African identity is often equated to skin color in the collective conscience of the West and the East alike. The image often evoked when the African identity is once again under scrutiny is that of black skinned men and women clothed in Dashiki and other colorful garments.
Yet, the belonging to Africa cannot be reduced to the levels of melanin in the skin. The African identity is the cumulus of historical, cultural and political twists summed to the potential of men and women to condition their environment or to be conditioned in return.
The cultural proximity between Morocco and North African countries is not to be challenged at all. Yet the cultural exchange between North Africa and the Sub-Saharan regions has always been curtailed.
The geological structure of the region accounts partially for the lack of reciprocal influence among the civilizations that inhabited both regions. The Sahara has always stood as a barrier separating culturally North Africa from the rest of the continent.
Needless to say that the Sahara conflict has relatively widened the chasm between the Cherifian Kingdom and the African states since the withdrawal of Morocco from the African Union. The absence of Morocco restrained cooperation opportunities for both Morocco and the African countries.
Political wrangling over the Sahara does not account fully for the cultural distance between Morocco and most African countries. The affiliation of Morocco to the Arab world with its lot of problematic issues has also deflected attention from its neighbors behind the Sahara dunes.
Nevertheless, the cultural remoteness or the political spar over the Sahara does not make Morocco less African, more Arab or less Amazigh. These distinct identities are different faces of the same prism. Once you turn it, a new face appears while another face is eclipsed, but never suppressed.
To narrow the African identity to geographical location or to ethnic belonging or to reduce it to a sheer strategic alliance does not dispel the ambiguity. Identity finds itself better elucidated in the mayhem of diversity and continuation rather than conformity and inertness.