Moroccan Coalition: Ditching Arabic in Schools for French Is a Crime

The National Coalition for the Arabic Language

The National Coalition for the Arabic Language remains determined to oppose the draft framework Law 51.17, a bill Parliament is set to vote on which will replace the Arabic language with French in classes teaching scientific subjects in Moroccan schools.

After launching a petition against the law, the coalition held a press conference in Rabat on Wednesday to condemn the government’s plans to prioritize French in some subjects in Moroccan schools.

The draft law, backed by Morocco’s Minister of Education Said Amzazi, aims to make students proficient in foreign languages.

‘It is a crime, face it’

The coalition argued that the law is in violation of the Moroccan Constitution, which established Arabic and Tamazight (Berber) as Morocco’s official languages.

The head of the coalition, Fouad Bou Ali, said in the press conference that what is happening in the Parliament is a “crime” against Morocco, which serves the interests of the “French lobby.”

Bou Ali, who was quoted by Elaph Morocco, added that excluding the Arabic language from Moroccan schools will “reap failures and setbacks experienced by the public school.”

The chairman of the coalition described the situation as a “surreal scene that we did not want to to imagine that it might happen for decades.”

Al Istiqlal continues campaign against Francophone movement

The former leader of the opposition Istiqlal (Independence) Party (PI), Mohamed El Khalifa, said that the battle of people who defend the Arabic language is “a battle of existence, which will last forever.”

The former official also expressed his categorical rejection of the law.

Istiqlal has long defended the Arabic language, especially after Morocco’s independence from the French colonization.

In the 1970s, the party campaigned on an urgent need to Arabize the educational system. The party aimed to curb the then perceived threat of the predominance of French in Morocco’s educated circle.

El Khalifa added that French is like any other language “trying with all its might to impose its presence in the countries that it colonized.”

Addressing the government, the former minister said, “This is not your right” to violate the Constitution.

“You can not agree on something against the Constitution,” he said, adding that Article 5 of the Constitution emphasizes “the importance of the protection and development of the Arabic language and its use.”

The draft law received backlash from several other politicians, including former Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane.

Last week, Benkirane warned the members of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) from voting on the draft law.

Benkirane also advised his fellow PJD member, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, to resign if necessary.

Benkirane’s statement followed a parliamentary meeting on March 25, when the majority of Moroccan political party leaders agreed to pass the draft law.

Commenting on the draft law, Benkirane told PJD members that it would be a “shame” to undo the three-decades-long “honor of the Arabization of scientific subjects.”

The current tension is not the first debate on languages in Morocco. Last year, with the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic school year, Morocco witnessed a large debate regarding the usage of Darija or the Moroccan dialect of Arabic in Moroccan schools.

Politicians and scholars condemned the use of Darija, saying that it would confuse students and they would not master the Arabic language.

Arabic critics, including Noureddine Ayouch, criticized scholars who defended standard Arabic over Darija.

Months after the first Arabic vs. Darija debate, another tension erupted among scholars who defended English and Arabic. While some said that English should take over French in Moroccan schools, others prefer to defend both English and Arabic as languages that should be prioritized in Moroccan schools, dropping French.

Commenting on the draft law on French teaching, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Ahmed Al Raissouni, said that “if science should be taught in a foreign language, it must be taught in English.”

Government seeking a consensus

Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said after the weekly government council that the draft law was at the heart of the meeting.

In the weekly press conference, El Khalfi said that there is a need for consensus, “because it is a major reform that concerns our country and the current and future generations.”

El Khalfi added that the issue will be managed with the majority’s agreement, “and if there will be difficulties, they will be solved.”