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From Maastricht to Brexit by Richard Bellamy and Dario Castiglione

An Extension of the Official Moroccan Identity in the Constitution of 2011: Appeasing Requirements of the Arab Spring Demonstrations

Constitutions
 
Democratisation
 
Islam
 
National Identity
 
Identity
 
Protests
 
Presenter
Maja Dolinar
University of Ljubljana
Authors
Maja Dolinar
University of Ljubljana

Abstract
Protests in Morocco in February 2011, that followed the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, launched a huge breakthrough in terms of including a wider respect for human rights and putting Morocco at the forefront of the debate over the democratization in the Arab world. Two main issues came to the surface of constitutional debates: whether Morocco should continue to be defined as an Islamic state, and whether Morocco should recognize Berber language as official language.
What is probably the most important change in official Moroccan discourse is the fact that the new constitution redefines Morocco as a culturally and linguistically plural state. The Berber (Amazigh) movement had joined the February 2011 protests and continued demanding the recognition of the Berber language (Tamazight) as an official language of Morocco together with Arabic. In the preamble of the new Constitution of 2011, Morocco is defined as “modern” state of “democratic rights” founded on the “principles of participation, pluralism and good governance” (Constitution 2011). It puts forth an “interdependent (fr. solidaire) society where all people enjoy security, liberty, equality of opportunity, respect, dignity and social justice” (Constitution 2011).
The paper will focus on close examination of the text of the Moroccan Constitution of 2011 in terms of how it expands the notion of what is Moroccan identity and what is Moroccan culture and society and will provide a discussion on how these changes have been implemented so far in practice. The preamble of the previous constitution was basically driven from the language of decolonization and Third world solidarity that specified Morocco as a place in a “great Arab Maghreb” and “African unity,” however the new constitutions builds on a wider globalism that is a mix of a future North African union alongside an Arabo-Islamic ummah, African solidarity and Euro-Mediterranean partnership.
In the previous versions of the constitution only the official status of Arabic was mentioned, whereas the new constitution says that “Arabic remains the official language of the state,” yet further claims that Tamazight “constitutes an official language of the state, as the common heritage of all Moroccans without exception” (Constitution 2011), which is certainly a huge step in acknowledging Berber language. What is important to stress is also that the new constitution does not rest only on the Arab-Berber divide, but acknowledges the country’s huge cultural and geographic plurality. Just as Amazigh culture is declared to be the patrimony of all citizens, so too is its broader ethno-cultural diversity declared to constitute its “national identity, one and indivisible”. The preamble specifies a “convergence” of Arabo-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan “components” that is “nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean influences” (Constitution 2011).
Some notable changes have been made recently in Moroccan foreign relations with its readmission as a member of the African Union, acknowledging its African roots. However, it is still unclear what all this constitutional rhetoric will mean in the future policy development or how this will change the Moroccan society.
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