Gestart door mimoun, 03/04/2003 om 11:49:04
CiteerThe Berbers come fighting back (The Economist, February 13, 1999)A history teacher in a Casablanca secondary school would appear an unlikely threat to North African Muslim orthodoxy. Yet Johadi Lhoucine is putting the finishing touches to a project liable to shake the Moroccan establishment. For the past ten years, he has spent his after-school hours translating the 114 suras (chapters) of the Koran from Arabic into the Berber tongue, Tamazight. He says he is trying to make the Koran comprehensible to the majority of Moroccans for whom Tamazight is their mother tongue. Reasonable, one might think. But by giving Berbers unbridled access to the revealed word of God, his translation risks undermining the authority of Morocco's religious establishment and its papal potentate, King Hassan, the Commander of the Faithful. Berber intellectuals predict that the Berber Koran will shake Islam as the vernacular translation of the Bible shook the medieval church. Some are already heralding Mr Lhoucine as a Muslim Martin Luther, the progenitor of a protestant Islam. The Koran has been translated into more than 40 languages. Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Iran all have their vernacular renditions and accompanying interpretations. Morocco's Berbers do not. In the tenth century, the Bourghwata kingdom translated its Koran into Berber, and even had its own Berber prophet, Salah bin Tarif, a Jewish convert to Islam. But the Bourghwatas were vanquished by Sunni puritans, who denounced them as apostates and burnt copies of their Berber Koran. Fragments survive in western museums. The absence of a Berber Koran helps to explain why Morocco is part of the Arab world, whereas Iran and Turkey, for instance, are not. Ever since Arab armies brought Islam to Africa 1,400 years ago, an Arabic-speaking elite with the power to interpret the word has dominated the Berber-speaking hoi polloi. And that is the way the authorities want it to stay. Sources within Morocco's ministry of Islamic affairs say that publication of the Berber Koran will probably be blocked. Morocco's programme of Arabisation went into overdrive after a failed Berber coup in 1971. Tamazight was purged from the palace, and Egyptian and Syrian teachers were posted to the Atlas highlands to sow Arabic in the minds of the Berber young. Morocco has the lowest literacy rate in North Africa, partly because many children are taught in a language they do not understand. At the same time, the policy has generated a new class of muarabeen, or Arabised Berbers. They are young and urban. They fill the lower echelons of government and the growing ranks of Morocco's banned Islamist group, Adl wal Ihassan, which preaches that Arabic, as the holy tongue, is the only passport to paradise. Berber activists are beginning to say that it is time to shrug off Arab colonialism. They want Tamazight taught in schools, given more than token airtime on television, and listed as the official language of state. They say their identity belongs in the West (Maghreb, the Arabic for Morocco, means a western place), not in the cultural orbit of Arabia. A group of Berber intellectuals are bent on putting Morocco's Bourghwata past back into the history books. This year alone has seen a host of publications not just on the Bourghwatas, but also on pre-Islamic Berber culture, which the activists stretch back thousands of years to places as far afield as the Canary islands and the Nile. Last month a Berber newspaper went on sale promising to defend indigenous culture. A philosophy professor at Rabat University, Ahmed al Aseed, has given a series of lectures to promote his book on the Berbers' struggle. Morocco's increasingly virulent Islamist opposition denounces the academics as "new Bourghwatas" and says that they too are apostates. The Islamists accuse Berber activists of treachery and of peddling the ideologies of Morocco's former colonial rulers. They hark back to the days when Morocco's French rulers set up French-language schools in Berber areas and sponsored Christian missions to Europeanise the natives and build a bulwark against Islam. The Islamists vastly outdo the Berber movement in both numbers and political strength; Berber activists are found mainly in the mountains. But they are fighting back. "In the 1970s all we wanted was parity with Arabic," says Mr Aseed. "Now, after 30 years without change, the extremists are calling for Tamazight supremacy. The battle has begun."
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