Morocco and the African Arab Divide – A prolegomenon by Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman

The identity of Moroccans has been a subject of discourse following their astonishing performance at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Their identity became a thing of question when Africans sang their praises for bringing glory to Africa on account of continental affiliation while on account of racial affiliation, they received praises from Palestine to Doha, to Damascus, to Baghdad, to Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Medina and many other Arab nations.

To an average person, the idea of who is African is a black-skinned person whether he is in Nigeria, or America, Brazil, Jamaica, etc. It will not be a surprise if a 10-year-old child asks, “are they Africans too?” when he sees a country like Nigeria or Ghana play against Algeria or Morocco.

While Arab Moroccans or North Africans may be identified as Africans given their geopolitical location, it should be understood that it has very nothing to do with ethnicity, the same way a black Jamaican whose ancestors were sold into slavery is not necessarily American.

There is no particular definition of what is a continent, rather, it is a mere convention influenced by socio-political constructs. This article does not seek to discuss in details 7 continents as a social-political construct nor the different scholarly definition of continents, nevertheless, we will cite some instances for contemplation.

The common theory that each continent is a discrete landmass is not absolute. In fact, only Antarctica and Australia are totally separated from other continents by ocean.

In the case of North and South America, and Africa and Asia, there is no complete separation of their landmasses by water – Africa and Asia are joined by Isthmus of Suez while Isthmus of Panama joins North and South America.

Outside of the western seven continent model, there are also theories for six continents. Some have being argued that the separation of Europe and Asia is Eurocentrism at play – meaning that, all things being equal, we should have EURASIA. At least, only China and India are comparable to Europe’s entire landmass. It also follows that if we define continents as discrete landmass that embraces all the contiguous land of a body, then, Africa, Europe and Asia should be Afro-Eurasia.

Countries like Russia, some other parts of Eastern Europe still use the six-continent model. In Atlases published in Europe in the mid 19th century, North and South America are considered to be one continent. The idea of separating America does not appeal to Latin Americans to this day.

The question of who is an African has been a subject of discourse and cannot be exhausted in this article. In Egypt, many present-day Egyptians are Arabs and are not the same with ancient Egyptians of whose reputation is being widely spoken of.

The Berbers are the indigenous people of Maghreb (North Africa) while Arabs trace their ancestry to the Arabia Pennisula in the Middle East. The Islamic conquest led to the Arab – Berber identity given years of inte-rmarriages. This is also observed amongst the Hausa – Fulani people of Northern Nigeria where it is common to identify as Hausa – Fulani, even though they are distinct from each other (The Fula people are nomadic and scattered in many parts of Africa especially the Sahel and West Africa).

Found in Ethiopia and Eritrea are the Habesha people who put themselves in a separate non-black ethno-racial category that emphasiz their Semitic origins. There are also amongst other Black diasporans who trace their roots to Israel.

We may also take into consideration the case of BLACK Afro-Arabs like the Sudanese, Emiratis, Yemenis, Saudis, Omanis, Sahrawis, Mauritanians, Algerians, Egyptians and Moroccans, with considerably long established communities in Arab states such as Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

Interestingly, Arav Nations in the Middle East are in the Asian continent but when Asia is mentioned, one thinks of the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and their likes. The Arabs in the Asian continent identify more with their race than with their continent.

This article does not seek to declare whether Moroccans are Arabs, Africans, or Afro-Arabs, rather, it is a discourse that serves as a prologomenon to understanding our diversity and social-political construct at play.

Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman

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