Diaspora : the appropriation of the Berber identity by the Arabized


For time a reactionary wave has seized the intellectual circles. In the Anglo-Saxon world, these followers of social struggles and victimization are called “woke”, meaning, “conscious”. Seeing absolutely a cause to be defended, many address poignant subjects, very superficially. The struggles intermingle and the appearance of a new terminology complicates the understanding of these. On social networks, African-Americans are heard and their causes become the main concerns of these “conscious” people. Discrimination, and more particularly negrophobia, is denounced. From this vocabulary described earlier, many terms, like “People Of Color” appeared.  The supporters are mostly from diasporas. Following a fairly precise pattern of victimhood, a popularization of history takes place. The aim is clear, to make history binary where the West is the oppressor, and the appreciable rest plays the role of oppressed. Today a phenomenon resulting from this movement appears in the Maghrebi diaspora : the appropriation of the Berber identity by the Arabized.

The Berber identity and ethnic Amazigh claim goes hand in hand, and these people do not hesitate to add to the many pre-existing struggles. The Amazigh claim has always been part of the Maghreb. Depending on the political context, it takes different forms and stabilizes during the colonial years. During decolonization, the Maghreb leaders who follow Pan-Arabism, impose a unique Arab identity, dividing more than uniting a people around a language and a religion. Officially two main ethnic groups are distinguished in the Maghreb : the “Arabs” (including the Arabized Berbers and the descendants of Arabs), and the Berbers.

In short, ever since this “woke” movement, a certain number of these Maghrebi Arabs appropriate the Berber identity, with which they nevertheless never grew up with. Being Berber is not to say “I am Berber from today, so I can speak as such”. Being Amazigh is dear to us, we have inherited this identity and are attached to the language and culture that flows from it. The Berber identity is not a simple tool in order to be a victim in a pyramid scheme where the most suffering would be the “Black People”. This renewal of identity has several reasons, first the desire to be politicized. Another reason surfaced: the obsession with identity and being indigenous. This identity dynamic in vogue does not hesitate to appropriate Hitlerian practices through the “one-drop rule” for example, where race is at the center of society. The definition of Afro-descendant, taken from a French site is quite shocking and echoes this fascist and racialist influence in this area : “What is an Afro-descendant? A person born outside Africa but with ancestors born in sub-Saharan Africa in sufficient numbers to affect the appearance or culture of that person. For ancestors born in sub-Saharan Africa to affect the appearance (phenotype) of a person, they must account for more than 6.25% of the total ancestors (1/16th or 4 generations)”.

Identity remains nevertheless personal and, as we have said elsewhere, flexible. But the fact for a Maghrebi Arab to identify himself as Amazigh is unbelievable. Moreover, to affirm that it is also Amazigh that a berberophone is surrealist.

Internet Phenomenon 

The first remark that can be made is that it is only on the internet that one can meet people who have grown up as Arabs, whose family claims to be Arab and have no connection with the Berbers, claiming Berber. In the Maghreb, in real life, you will never, for example, meet a Fassi calling himself Berber because it would amount to a social downgrade. Even a Jabli (northwestern Morocco), although located in the western Rif, will not call themselves a Riffian and will clearly draw the distinction between the Riffians and himself. The Jbala (plural of Jabli) will even prefer to claim Andalusian rather than Berber origins. But some Jbala of the Diaspora will come to say that they are indeed Riffians… Moreover, for people who know only the Arab / Berber dichotomy (so most people in the Maghreb), to hear an Arab call themselves Amazigh intrigues a lot. It is necessary to know that the Berber diaspora conscious of the identity problem of the Arabs in the Maghreb, is open-minded enough to call these people “Arabized Berbers” when in reality the Berbers in Tamazirt call them rather pejorative “i3raben” (= the Arabs).

The nebulabism of these neo-Berbers

We can see from these neo-Berbers an unpleasant way of speaking in the name of the Imazighen. The fact that these “Arabized” people want to recognize the importance of Berberity in the Maghreb and to denounce the imposture of Arab nationalism is one thing, that they speak for the Berbers as if they were in their place and usurping their speech is another. Another remark, these Arabs overthrow the Berber cause for their profit, proof of their egocentrism. They even come to regard themselves as the “real victims of Arabization”, which is extremely indecent. For them, the Berber cause amounts to rejecting the Arabization that their grandparents accepted, or not. They completely reverse oppression: the Arabs become the only victims of Arabization, and the Berbers who dare to point out to them that they are not « totally Berber » are the oppressors. The binary pattern emerges again, the race for victimization is in order.

Popularization of the Berbers

Among these neo-Berbers there are many apostates hating Islam. Thus, these “ancient Arabs” have appropriated the Berber identity to justify their apostasy and to exert a distance with their Arabism which they see too close to Islam. By doing so, these people reinforce the ideas and arguments of Arab identity, opposing Berbers to religion, even though the Berber regions are known to be the most conservative. If these people are so attached to the Berbers, why do they not respect the religion of 98% of these? Moreover, often these people, voluntarily or not, reiterate speeches and stereotypes about the Berbers who were held to humiliate or debase them. Arab, even if he/she tries to claim Berber, always returns to their first tendencies.

Very superficial or non-existent knowledge of the history of the Maghreb

Like the complexed Berbers, these individuals have superficial or even non-existent knowledge of the history of the Maghreb and the Berbers. According to them, Arabization began with the Arab conquests in the 7th century, during which the Arabs massacred the Berbers to force them to call themselves Arab, etc., completely deny the Arab demographic contribution to the Maghreb (although it is minimal its impact is not negligible), etc. They even characterize the Arab conquests colonization and make no distinction between the army of Uqba Ibn Nafi and Arab invasions (questionable term). These people, who consider themselves Berber because historically they are only Arabized, have no knowledge in this matter and only demonize individuals by their identity, here Arab (referring again to the fascist influences of the movement). The legacy of their binary reflection also leads them to issue racialist hypotheses about the origin of the Berbers and that they were Black. Depending on their logic, the more a person is dark, the more Amazigh they are. It is by following this logic and to give oneself credibility that some have been able to deduce that as Arabized or Black-ish Arabs, they were more Amazigh than a very light Berber. Moreover, the act of qualifying the Berbers as Black position them in the dynamics of afro-descendants, something on which many of them fantasize, because of the fetishization that they make of Black people.

Identity factitious, Berber for aesthetics

These Arabs appear as Amazigh, but in practice have very little interest in what the Berbers live and undergo. One sees that even in their cause they retain a privilege despite the will to make themselves victims. Their Berberism is limited to being able to call themselves as Amazigh as the Imazighen. As for the fact that the Imazighen are despised, neglected by the governments, they have very little to do. In reality, they claim to be Amazigh only to draw in the different cultures of the Berber subgroups they fetishize: wear Kabyle dresses, Chleuh jewelry, draw tattoos (ridiculous by the way) with pen on their face and have the pleasure of calling themselves aboriginal and anti-colonialists. The sexualization of the Berber culture is also very obvious, the anecdote of an illustrator evoking a Berber ancestral practice that would be to tattoo the pubis to remove sexually transmitted diseases: a lie created from scratch, to give a sexual character to the practices of Berber women. Then, through the Native Berber map, some people want to get closer to the Sub-Saharans in order to reach the top of the pyramid of the victims of humanity at their fingertips, but also to respond to a flagrant fetishization of “Black people”.

What we have to say to these people is that you do not serve the Berbers, on the contrary. You fetishize the Berber culture and are Amazigh only for frivolous interests. As I was able to read in a previous article written by a Berber woman : “Our identity is not there to satisfy your identity fantasies, nor to justify your pseudo-politicization”. We are a real people, we have a History, we grew up with this identity, our parents were despised for it and fought for its gratitude. So if you love the Berbers as much you claim, have respect and do not speak on our behalf to relieve your complex. We are not just victims. We did not wait for the Arabs to acknowledge our existence to claim our identity. The struggle has always taken place in the preservation of language, cultural practices such as poetry, music and historical narratives. You can not understand what the frustration of the Amazigh people is because you have never been touched by the real problems of the community. We choke from anti-racist feminist novice, tracing Anglo-Saxon theories only make you further away from what you want to integrate at all costs. Stop using our claims for your light interests, and wrongly, because it turns against us, the real Berbers.



3 réflexions sur “Diaspora : the appropriation of the Berber identity by the Arabized

  1. Hi,

    First of all thanks for writing this article because i think it voices a popular opinion among many educated Berbers in Western countries. But i kinda disagree with you that this superficial interest and use of our culture is a necessarily a bad thing, mostly because before we never got any attention to the plight of many Berber communities (For example in the Rif) so i kinda have some tolerance for any misguided behaviour among arabized Berbers.

    Instead of combating this behaviour with the same agression we would conduct ourselves against the oppressor, we should remain calm and explain how this behaviour is contraproductive to our cause and tell them what is the truth(with evidence ofcourse).
    Also i think the Berber culture is a culture of cultural approriation, we have existed for atleast 8000 years and have been influenced by and have influenced many cultures and we always did so with zero disdain. So i believe it woud be very hypocritical to do so now to solidify our oppressed culture and identity (I believe this starts fascistic tendencies within sociopolitcal movements).

    I agree completely with your intent, i just disagree in the modus operandi.
    Take the liberal movements and SJWs in the Western countries. I believe often they have the right intent or atleast claim they have, but try to enact these ideas or policies in extremely authoritarian and elitist ways which creates only more opposition and eventually just hurts the cause.

    Remember that we have made huge progession in the last 20-30 years by being nonviolent, happy to display and share our culture, educate and by focusing on collective and individual freedom.
    We should keep conducting ourselves this way if we want to keep developing our presence in the world.

    With kind regards


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