Most of our aging readers would recall newspaper articles of September, 1922 about the brave Berbers. If not, one of them was yesterday in Nothing New Under the Sun on our blog, just short scroll bellow. Nothing much happened since 1922, to my limited knowledge at least until now, in what the ever inventive journalists are pleased to call “the Arab Spring”. (With a baited breath, I am awaiting “the Australian Spring” when the oppressed and no longer apathetic masses get rid of Labor/Green usurpers)
Berbers, estimated 20 million, live in north west Africa in an area roughly between the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Nile and Niger. They are minorities in Libya (5%), Morocco, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria and Egypt. Nobody in the West takes them seriously. Kurds also were not taken seriously for a long time, until they got seriously armed and seriously Marxist, whichever came first. Berbers apparently got their name from Romans as in barbarus, “barbarians”. For Romans, of course, anybody drinking undiluted wine was a barbarian. They could have been right. Still, Barbary Coast, Beri-beri, Brown, barbulla*, barbiturate and all those words that have unpleasant connotations. Berbers are mainly nomadic pastoralists and not particularly homogeneous. For example, Tuareg are nomadic Berbers living mainly in southern Algeria, eastern Mali and western Niger. Tuareg use their own, unique alphabet (Tifinagh); the other Berbers adopted a Latin one. Before the onslaught of Islam, Berbers were animists or Christians. In fact, one Berber Christian theologist is know to the educated people as St Augustine. The Muslim who invaded Iberia in 711 A.D. were mainly Berbers and were led by a Berber, Tariq ibn Ziyad. That invasion, for the time being anyway, failed. Afterwards Berbers were allegedly persecuted by Arabs and so it is no wonder that there are 2.2 million of them in Europe today. Whether it is a matter of getting out of the frying pan and into the fire the future Eurabia will show.
About ninety years ago the hero was Abdel Krim with his “republic”. This time a certain Mounir Kejji, also a Moroccan Berber has high hopes. “There is a Berber renaissance taking place across north Africa”, he said. While linguistically correct, “renaissance” means something different to me. In July this year Moroccans in a referendum recognised the Berber language, though the practical application is doubtful, two hours on the state TV notwithstanding. Berbers do not have a single language, not even a single alphabet. As one can imagine, dominant Arabs in Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunis and elsewhere wish for one language, one religion and one government. (So does, for that matter, The Economist. Please, do not reminisce about Hitler.) The pan-Arab nationalists, not to mention imams, mullahs and assorted protectors of the faith may cite with approval the admonition of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to Berbers in 2008: “You can call yourselves whatever you want inside your homes – Berbers, Children of Satan, whatever – but you are only Libyans when you leave your homes.” Of course, as Muslims they would be expected to be Muslims even at home.
What it is all about? What are they trying to achieve? What exactly are “Berber values”? The journalists are always talking about Arab values, even about something called “Arab street”, so why not be a little bit more specific? Though “a Berber street” would even our experts find incongruous; and “a Berber goat path” could be politically incorrect. Nobody seems to know. There is no simple answer and even less space for fantasy which passes for political analysis nowadays. It is possible that Berbers would follow the Kurdish path and demand recognition, autonomy or separate state, one after another. They have weapons and ammunition to make their demands, if nothing else, visible on TV screens. A western cynic may say that anything which foments disunity between the groups both historically and potentially hostile to the western civilisation is good. Furthermore, fiercely tribal, semi-literate, semi-muslim conglomerate of people connected but a memory of fights for desert wells may bring some arid air to the foetid Islamic thought in modern Maghreb.
The question for us observers would seem to be the usual – qui bono? Who benefits? Whoever, China, Russia, Socialist International, but democracy and freedom unlikely.
*/ barbulla – Spanish for babble, noisy talk, i.e. Labor-speak or Green-speak
# # #