Rabat – Days before the Amazigh (Berber) New Year celebrations begin in Algeria, Algerian Muslim scholars have argued that celebrating it is haram (forbidden in Islam), dividing Algerian public opinion.
The Algerian Fatwa Commission at the Association of the Algerian Muslim Ulema has presented a controversial “fatwa,” religious ruling, regarding the celebrations, asserting that it is not permissible because it originated in the pagan pre-Islamic era, the epitome of “ignorance.”
The president of the commission, El Abidine Ben Hanafia, emphasized that the festivities of the new year, known as Yennayer in Tamazight (Berber) on January 12, would compete with and “hurt” the major Islamic holidays. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha is celebrated two months later as the feast of sacrifice.
An Algerian researcher and author, Mohamed Arezki Ferrad, argued back in a statement to Algerian news outlet, Rai Alyaoum, that celebrating the Amazigh New Year is necessary to engender love for Algerian values, culture, and history.
The fatwa has also angered some Algerians on social media who stated that their country is trying to “make everything haram.”
Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika recognized the Amazigh New Year as an official public holiday in a decree on December 27, 2017. On Saturday, the country will welcome the year 2,969.
In Morocco, activists are still calling for the government to make Yennayer a national and public holiday.
The Amazigh youth organization “Tamesna” will organize demonstrations outside Parliament in Rabat on Yennayer for the sixth year in a row.
Mentioning Morocco’s 2011 constitution, which recognized Tamazight as an official language alongside Arabic, the president of the Moroccan news outlet, “Alalam Al Amazighi,” (Amazigh World), Amina Ben Sheikh, recently sent a petition to King Mohammed VI to recognize Yennayer as a public holiday.
Ben Sheikh thinks, like many of her peers, that “recognizing the Amazigh New Year as an official national holiday side by side with the other national holidays would restore the spirit and philosophy of the Constitution.”