Morocco between the African and the Arab Identity




This short article is dedicated for all the Africans that said I’m not African and all the Arabs who said I’m not Arab.

The question of the Moroccan identity seems to be a debate that I always have to explain whenever I travel, especially when I meet some of my Africans and Arabs fellows, so Africans would ask me “where are you from?”, me” Morocco”, them: “Ah, you are an Arab who don’t admit the African origins”, then Arabs ask the same and then say “Oh you are the ones who don’t speak Arabic only French”. I’m not saying all the Africans and Arabs think the same way, but these answers and questions I’ve heard from many of them. Then I had to explain that Moroccan identity is mixed between the Arab, African and Amazighi culture, which make Morocco one of most diverse countries, with different languages, ethnics, cultures… But for some it seems not easy to understand.

This question is periphrastic, Morocco is situated at the peak of the African continent, and it stretches itself along the top of the Sahara all the way down to sub-Saharan Africa. It is linked to the Middle East as it shares the same mother tongue language and the same religions -Arabs are not only Muslims, There are Christian and Jews Arabs- and approximately the same political and social challenges.

Morocco is connected as well to Europe for the economic relations that gather not only Morocco to European Union, but as well Africa to Europe. Also, Morocco was colonized by France, so don’t get surprised when you hear a Moroccan speaking half French half Moroccan. To be honest, the French influence has dominant effects on the way Moroccans speak; you should expect that with some Moroccans you will have to speak French, otherwise you are underestimated. It is advantageous to master different languages, but it is bad when people are treated according to their level of French speaking.

Speaking of “Africanism”, which is far more imposing when studying Morocco’s history. Some of my African friends told me once “You guys aren’t Africans because you aren’t part of the African Union, you left the AU, so how come you consider yourselves Africans!”-i won’t answer this because it’s very political subject that will lead to another debate which is not the focus of this article- But anyway, Morocco is situated in the North of Africa, which means that geographically Morocco is an African country, if Morocco left the African Union, that’s because of a political reason, but Morocco still one of the most active African countries investing in Africa and it constitutes an open economic gate for sub-Saharan countries toward Europe.

From the other hand, I asked some Moroccans “Are you African?” and I got the most shocking answers -which is common between the North Africans though- they said:” Not really, Africans are black, but I’m not black” , and I was like “Should I be black do to be called African?”

Morocco politically and economically is focusing on Africa in the recent years, as many projects have been implemented so to foster the global economic of Africa. This shows how important Africa is for Morocco.

Now let’s talk about the Amazighi identity, the Amazighi people who constitute about 48 % of the population, which is the native identity of Morocco before the Arabs came to spread Islam religion, Arabs and Amazighi from then lived peacefully together and then founded the Moroccan identity, a mixture between the two identities, till 1930 when the Amazighi culture was denied and then divided the Arabs and the Amazighi, it was the easiest way for French colonizers to control the country, but even after the independence, Amazighi still didn’t feel conformable to speak Amazighi in public places or even to tell that they are Amazighi. From then on, there still stereotypes between the two groups which normally should constitute one group.

The situation has been improved now, as the language became official in the Morocco constitution, and the identity of Tamazight has been more and more integrated.

Arabs from the other hand criticize Morocco for not speaking pure Arabic in every daily life, but wait, there are no Arabs that speak exactly classical Arabic in their daily life, they speak Arabic accent like Egyptian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Jordanian… These are accent not classical Arabic language; though it is true that Moroccan dialect is different since it is a mixture between Arabic, Tamazight, French and Spanish, but just because the other Arabs can’t understand the Moroccan accent, it doesn’t means that Moroccans don’t master the classical Arabic, for those who don’t know Arabic is the first official language of Morocco.

I believe that diversity is richness. I have always felt fortunate for the diversity in my country. I admire the fact that everything is different and yet so much alike. What I don’t like are the divisions that are based on such differences that should not minimize who we are or anyone else.

In Morocco, we can never speak of a pure race or ethnicity, everything is bonded and intermixed.

I believe this categorization of people is preposterous, since it disturbs our wonders from the beauty of us as diverse; a fusion and combination. We spend so much time identifying differences and putting barriers between “us” and “them”; whoever “us” and “them” are.

Next time don’t ask me to choose whether I’m African or Arab, and don’t you dare to question if I’m Amazighi or Arab. I’m Moroccan, I’m mixture between them all, I’m African, I’m Arab, I’m Amazighi, I’m Andaloussi…

What difference would that make to you now? Would you treat me any different? Better or worse?