Amazigh activists are still hopeful to see the government recognize January 12, marking Amazigh New Year, as an official holiday.
January 12 was the first day of the Amazigh (Berber) calendar. The year 2021 marks the Amazigh people’s 2,971st New Year.
Public figures, senior officials, and Amazigh activists expressed joy and pride about celebrating the Amazigh New Year, which angered El Kettani.
The sheikh took to social networks to oppose celebrations, saying that the “so-called” Amazigh New Year “does not exist.”
He said that it is not appropriate for a Muslim, who believes in God, to celebrate the Amazigh New Year.
The tweet received backlash, with citizens lashing out at the preacher.
“Plurality is everywhere, in life and even in the Quran, except in the minds of radical Muslims,” one Twitter user said.
The statement angered many Amazigh activists who find remarks from El Kettani controversial and expressive of hatred against their culture.
Mounir Keiji, one of these Amazigh activists, told Morocco World News he condemned the statements. He said El Kettani’s remarks did not “stir controversy among Amazigh activists only, but all Moroccans.”
The activist said that not everyone has the same ideologies as El Kettani.
“El Kettani is known for his controversial remarks against Amazigh and Tamazight (the Amazigh language),” Keiji said.
He added that some Islamists have several ideologies regarding the Amazigh that contradict the country’s constitution.
The Amazigh activist expressed satisfaction with how Moroccans across the country and abroad celebrated Id Yennayer.
“Everyone celebrated the event. You can notice that through social networks,” Mounir Kieji said.
When Morocco World News asked the activist whether he thinks the government’s actions and efforts to promote Amazigh culture and traditions are enough, the activist said “la vie is not always en rose.”
He called for more efforts, but also expressed hope to see all the Amazigh people’s demands fulfilled, step by step.
One of the demands is to turn the Amazigh New Year into a national holiday.
People celebrate Id Yennayer across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Western Egypt.
In 2018, Algeria turned January 12 into a national holiday to celebrate Id Yennayer.
Since then, calls from Amazigh activists mounted, urging Morocco’s government to make Id Yennayer an official holiday.
In 2019, Amazigh activist and President of Moroccan news outlet “Alalam Al Amazighi” (Amazigh World), Amina Ben Sheikh, addressed a message to King Mohammed VI calling for the recognition of the Amazigh New Year as a public holiday.
Ben Sheikh said that “recognizing the Amazigh New Year as an official national holiday side by side with the other national holidays would restore the spirit and philosophy of the Constitution.”