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A moroccan perspective

Reader comment on item: Berbers as Anti-Islamists and Anti-Arab Nationalists

Submitted by Farid H. (Germany), Mar 25, 2009 at 05:01

As a Moroccan (of Arab ethnicity), I'd like to add a few points:

1. In Morocco, Kind Mohammed VI created IRCAM (Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh, www.ircam.ma) in 2001, which itself promotes the original Berber alphabet Tifinagh. This alone can be considered a substantial success of Amazigh activism. In the other North African countries, Amazighs still have a long uphill battle to get this level of official recognition.

2. What Moroccan Amazighs are still fighting for, is the right to use their own first names. Right now, the list of allowed first names is still heavily in favor of Arabic (or rather: Islamic) names, which irks many Amazighs a lot (quite rightfully, IMHO). They are also still lobbying for a TV station in their own tongue (though it would be probably more user-friendly to simultaneously broadcast two audio-channels on the same program...). Those demands are legitimate, there's no doubt about it.

3. With respect to Berber Anti-Islamism, I'm rather skeptical and I don't think that it holds much water, and you can't count on it. There is a small minority within the Amazigh movement that is anti-Islamic and a very, very small fraction that is even openly pro-Israel. But this is statistically totally insignificant. Considering that most hardened Islamists are actually MREs (marocains résidents à l'étranger), and that this group consists of many, many more Amazighs than Arabs (proportionally, when compared to the ethnic make-up in Morocco itself), it is quite evident that Islamism is more prevalent amongst Amazighs (at least outside Morocco).

And while this is objectively verifiable with statistics, my own subjective non-verifiable impression is that when talking about the M.E. conflict, the most radical anti-Israeli comments are more often made by Amazighs than by Arabs. On this point, I may have the wrong (or biased?) impression, but it strikes me as being very visible.

4. About factoring Amazighs into US foreign policy, I'd urge caution, at least w.r.t. Morocco, not to try the divide et impera strategy. The Treaty of Friendship (1789) between our countries was signed by the Monarchy, which is itself of Arabic origin, and it is this very same monarchy that is up to day maintaining those excellent bilateral relations. Taking into account the Berber factor is important, but perhaps not in the sense that this article may be implying. 5. I'm only commenting on Morocco. The situation in the other North African countries can be totally different, and warrants a different analysis, which may also come to slightly different conclusions.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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