Berber Dahir

   Its Arabic name is al-dhahir al-barbari, a stillmuch-debated decree to innovate the system of jurisdiction in Morocco, promulgated by Sultan Muhammad V on 16 March 1930 at the suggestion of the French resident general, Lucien Saint. It instituted for the Berber country the administration of justice according to its tribal customary law by local assemblies (jama`a), as opposed to shari`a, in all matters of personal status, inheritance, and civil or commercial litigation and established the competence of French law in criminal cases. Claiming to protect the Berber way of life, it was in fact a colonial tool to debilitate the Arab urban nationalist feelings and did not escape the severe criticism of political and academic groups in France. In Morocco, it evoked sharp reactions by the men of religion as an act that excluded Muslims from the Law of Allah such as it was laid in the Qur'an, and others saw it as a process of de-Islamization and conversion to Christianity. Violent attacks on the Dahir were launched by young urban bourgeois nationalists and in the mosques, mainly in Fès, Rabat, and Salé. A delegation of `ulama-notables, men of letters, artisans, and farmers-submitted to the sultan a petition demanding the abrogation of the Dahir, reestablishment of the unified judicial system, discontinuation of Christian missionary activities, and institution of Arabic as the official language and the general language of education. These activities found a loud echo inside and outside Morocco. In 1934, another Dahir partly restored the role of shari`a. Otherwise, the Berber Dahir remained in force until it was repealed by the Moroccan government after the achievement of independence. Its historic significance, however, was that it gave birth to currents of resistance against the French policies and Moroccan nationalism and has been used to justify the Arabization drive that swept much of North African policymaking after independence, doing damage to Berber culture and language.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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