The researcher claims that the Tifinagh alphabet used to write the Amazigh language was a French “invention, whose goal is to ignite a civil war in Morocco.”
Rabat – Just weeks before Morocco’s Amazigh (Berber) people celebrate their new year, Moroccan researcher Abdel Rahman Farkish has publicly shared controversial opinions about the historicity of the Amazigh new year and about Tifinagh, the alphabet used to write the Amazigh language.
Every year at this time, Amazigh activists renew several demands of the government, including to make January 12 an official holiday as the Amazigh new year’s day.
The year 2020 will be the Amazigh New Year 2970.
The origin of “Yennayer,” the Amazigh new year, goes back to 950 BC, some say. The date marks the victory of the Amazigh army, led by the Berber king Sheshonq,” also spelled “Chichanq,” over the pharaoh’s army to conquer Egypt.
But some, like Farkish, question the story, saying Yennayer is not historical.
Farkish believes that, in the past, there was nothing called an Amazigh year. “The celebration of the Amazigh year is caused by the search for an Amazigh identity, but this research should be based on accepted scientific foundations as it should not be a … historical lie.”
The researcher described the Amazigh year as a “historical lie” in an interview with Arabic news outlet al Ousboue.
In Morocco, Amazigh people celebrate the year even though it is not an official public holiday.
The celebration of Yennayer, however, has been an official national holiday in Algeria since 2017.
When al Ousboue asked the researcher about Yennayer, he said “It is an invention by some Kabyle Amazigh in Algeria, belonging to the Berber Academy in Paris.” Kabyle are an Amazigh ethnic group in the north of Algeria.
Farkish added that the Berber Academy is known for its “bigotry against Arabs and against everything that is from the Arab history in North Africa.”
He argued that Europeans did not accept the transformation of the Mediterranean Sea from a “Christian Lake” surrounded by Christian peoples to a sea with “Muslim south.”
He said Europeans believe Arabs are responsible for the conversion of peoples to Islam.
“Since then French historians and some Christians have been concerned with trying to Re-Christianize the lake as it was,” he said.
Farkish also had controversial things to say about the Amazigh language, although he acknowledged its importance.
“Amazigh is an essential component in the Maghreb and no one doubts that the Amazigh are a component of Morocco and the Amazigh language should be encouraged.”
He also praised the fact that Amazigh became an official language, alongside Arabic, in the new Constitution.
However, he argued, “The Amazigh awakening should not be at the cost of Moroccan cohesion between Arabs and Berbers because it is related to a war between two languages and two cultures.”
The researcher said Tifinagh, the Amazigh alphabet, was an invention from France to ignite a civil war in Morocco between Arabs and Amazigh.
‘You cannot just say it’s a French invention’
Abdelwahed Driouche, an Amazigh activist and a member of the House of Councillors in Parliament discounted Farkish’s comments in a statement to Morocco World News, saying that he does not agree with what Farkish said.
He said that all people have the right to enjoy their cultural and historical identities.
“Among the rights is the ability to acknowledge the identity” of Amazigh people, Driouche said.
He added that identity is linked to history.
“You cannot just come and say it is a fiction and that it is a French conspiracy and a French invention,” Driouche argued.
Such claims and unacceptance of others, the MP said, can lead to extremism and terrorism.
“All we want is coexistence. This is how Morocco will promote cultures and tourism.”
Driouche said activists are now, and will always be, calling for an official holiday to celebrate Amazigh new year’s day.
King Mohammed VI, the activist said, should make the decree.
Driouche added that many people opposed the decision to declare the Amazigh language an official language. “But it happened, so we are asking for the Amazigh year to be official by a royal decision.”
In June, Morocco’s Commission of Education, Culture, and Communication also adopted a law confirming that the Amazigh language should be written with the Tifinagh alphabet.
Tifinagh, also called the Lybic script, was used in the North Africa region from 2000 BC to the 3rd century AD.