In the Arab world, and especially in the Kingdom of Morocco, the language question has become an inseparable part of the social and political debate. It has become apparent that some political and social voices and media outlets are beginning to stir a debate regarding identity and the necessity to revise its components, as well as the relationship between identity and human development and the geo-strategic space of belonging; furthermore, these voices call for the redefinition and delimitation of the civilizational belonging of the nation. With the emergence of the recent political dynamic being led by the young vanguard in the Arab world, the time became opportune for the language debate to emerge into the open, becoming a source of disagreement between the ethnic and racial components that make up Moroccan society.
The speech by the Moroccan King on March 9, 2011 opened the debate regarding the requirements of the awaited change and its limits and horizons in the era of the Arab Revolution. Furthermore, the speech also opened the door to debates on the nature of identity, especially as it declared the inclusion of Amazigh identity as a principle component of the diverse fabric of Moroccan society. The King's address also affirmed "the constitutional enshrinement of the pluralist character of the unified Moroccan identity, which is rich due to the wealth of its sources, and in their heart, Amazighism, as a credit for all Moroccans without exception." That is despite the fact that the demands advanced by the Moroccan youth movement (in the footsteps of its counterparts in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria), which was the main catalyst of the awaited amendment, did not include identity issues in statements and public calls. The bulk of the movement's rhetoric was focused on political matters, the regulation of the relationship between the three branches of government, and greater popular participation. Regardless, the chance had come for many (elitist) voices to impose their agenda on the public debate, exploiting the moment to list the imposition of Amazigh identity as part of popular demands -coloring the protest movements with ethnic and racial tones. As a result, observers noticed the increase in seminars, initiatives, and public and secret gatherings that are wagering on their ability to turn the "expected" change in the direction of the constitutional acknowledgment of new languages, and their imposition as official languages of the state. This was finally achieved in the constitutional draft which was approved on July 1, 2011.
How can we interpret the course of the language debate from the ideological phase to the constitutional phase? How do we read the authorities' handling of the language question? Was the approval of the new constitution sufficient to put a cap on identity issues? What is the fate of multiculturalism after the delimitation of various identities? And what are the expected threats to the cohesion of the Moroccan social fabric?
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Mohammad VI, "The March 9, 2011 speech", al-Alam Newspaper,
April 19, 2011.