El Kettani also claimed that some Muslim scholars decided that pre-Islamic festivals, such as Yennayer, are forbidden in Islam
Rabat – Moroccan sheikh Hassan Ali El Kettani, a salafist and preacher has met with backlash on social media networks after he questioned the historical validity ofAmazigh New Year, or Yennayer.
With Yennayer just around the corner, MPs at Moroccan parliament and activists are calling on the government to recognize the Amazigh calendar and to make Yennayer an official paid holiday.
January 13 will mark the 2970th Yennayer.
In Morocco, Tamazight (Berber language) is part of Morocco’s education system as the 2011 Constitution recognized it as the second official language in the country, along with Arabic.
Activists, however, seek recognition for Amazigh calendar.
Several scholars and researchers have opposed the idea of recognizing the Amazigh year as an official holiday, with El Kettani the most recently voicing his opposition.
The preacher used his Facebook account to share his thoughts about the festival, stating that “it has been decided by Muslim scholars that it is forbidden to celebrate the pre-Islamic festivals.”
Muslims have no links with a “superstitious pre-Islamic king named [Sheshonq] who defeated another pre-Islamic Pharaoh in an imaginary battle,” El Kettani argued.
Amazigh activists and historians believe that the origin of Yennayer goes back to 950 BC. It marks the history of the Amazigh army led by Sheshonq, also spelled as Chichank, over the Pharaoh’s army to conquer Egypt.
“There is no evidence to prove that. In which documented source did these events happen?,” El Kettani asked rhetorically, emphasizing that such events were invented to create division and to disperse Muslims.”
For some researchers, however, the Amazigh celebration is just an invention and an extraneous festivity.
In December, Moroccan researcher Abdel Rahman Farkish said that the Amazigh Yennayer is not historically valid.
“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,” he said.
He also described the celebration as an invention by some Kabyle Amazigh in Algeria who belong to the Berber Academy in Paris.
Like Farkish, El Kettani also believes that Yennayer is a French invention.
El Kettani quoted another scholar named Dr. Othman Saadi who said that French people “created the Berber Academy of Paris in 1967” to divide Algerians into two peoples. The difference is the language with some speaking Arabic and others speaking Tamazight.
“The ultimate goal is to make French a common language between the two peoples and to dominate the country,” Saadi said.
El Kettani published another post, stating that he knows he will receive “ugly” comments in response to his statements but that these people will be responding with insults rather than evidence against his theory.
Last week, the president of the Amazigh World Assembly, Rachid Al Rakha addressed letters to King Mohammed VI and Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani to renew calls for the recognition of Yennayer as a public holiday.
With the backlash between Amazigh people and opposition parties, it remains to be seen whether the government will recognize Yennayer as an official holiday.