Fez – The recommendations made by Nabil Ayouch to his majesty the king Mohamed VI to banish standard Arabic from schools and adopt the Moroccan Darija in education split the nation into two separate groups: supporters and detractors.
From the very beginning; I’m one of those who vehemently reject these recommendations altogether believing that such a decision, if taken, would certainly deepen the crisis of Moroccan education, alienate Morocco and cut it off from its cultural and civilizational roots. Moreover, those who made these recommendations either didn’t consider the pros and cons of their ‘theories’ or were ideologically motivated to undermine the status of standard Arabic in Morocco for their underlying purposes.
Language, any language, is not just a random set of words people use to communicate and signify existing or imaginary referents. Rather, it is a vehicle encompassing a set of cultural values and identity traits. It is the means by which identity is articulated and inscribed. Banishing standard Arabic from schools is just like severing a part of the body which would consequently malfunction in its natural milieu.
Morocco as a Muslim country with basically Arab and Amazigh ethnic backgrounds has been historically inextricably tied to other Arab countries in the Middle East. The maintenance of good relationships with Arab peoples was a translation of the awareness that Morocco is part and parcel of this geographical entity called the Arab world.
It’s true that Morocco is not a purely Arab country and saying otherwise would stir much controversy because the question of identity and belonging is not an easy one, but Islam (as the official religion of the state as stated in the constitution) and standard Arabic (as the national language) have played an instrumental role in building Moroccans’ collective memory and strengthening Morocco’s ties with Arabic and Arabs.
Morocco without standard Arabic in its schools would seem an alienated country which is neither Arab, nor Western and in a few years our children will fail to understand the simplest verses of the Qur’an. I would not endorse conspiracy theory and make the ultimate conclusion and say it is Islam that is targeted through this well-knitted plan; that’s another story. What I mean here is to show the implications and repercussions of this decision, in case it is adopted.
The first question those who made these recommendations should have asked before any action is how our students are going to read their history which is recorded in volumes of books in standard Arabic. It seems that history doesn’t matter to them but the fact is that those who don’t know where they have come from don’t know where they are and will not know where to go like a ship amidst a rough sea. Banishing standard Arabic from schools is burying national memory for good and giving an easy delivery to an amnesiac generation of citizens.
Another important question to ask is what Moroccan dialect to adopt since people in the north have their special Jabliya dialect, people in Fes speak Fassiya, and people in the Sahara speak Hassaniya etc. given that these varieties are semantically and syntaxically distinct.
Adopting one of these dialects and excluding others would kindle tensions and generate conflict over language like the case in many countries. The new constitution of Morocco spared the country such kind of conflicts by recognizing and institutionalizing Tamazight alongside Arabic, but these recommendations would drag Morocco back to the starting point again.
I believe Moroccan Arabic (Dariija) is another enriching component of Moroccanness because it reminds us of the cultural and ethnic tributaries of Morocco throughout history; it is a concrete evidence of how different cultures and languages coexisted and cross-pollinated in Morocco (Amazigh, Arabs, Jews, Morisquos etc). But I strongly refuse the empowerment of the status of Moroccan Darija at the expense of standard Arabic while, somehow, the status of French in Morocco remains unquestioned and intact.
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