A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a lecture by Dr. Atiqa Hachimi on gender and styling in Moroccan Arabic. As I am minoring in Arabic, the talk seemed interesting, and I wanted to learn more about the Moroccan dialect, since the University of Oklahoma usually focuses on the Egyptian dialect. The lecture mainly talked about the language in context of social media, but it also included a discussion on the different stereotypes surrounding Moroccan Arabic and North African Arabic in general. For instance, many Middle Eastern Arabic speakers joke that Arabic “died in North Africa” and that North African Arabic is “not real Arabic,” it is unintelligible and a mishmash of other languages. This view leads to language discrimination, most visibly in the subtitling of North African Arabic speakers in Modern Standard Arabic or Middle Eastern Arabic (like Egyptian or Syrian). These portrayals in turn lead to the notion that North African speakers must accommodate to Middle Eastern speakers by using Modern Standard Arabic or a Middle Eastern dialect. Consequently, in one survey done by Dr. Hachimi, 72% of Moroccans ranked Syrian Arabic was the “best” form of Arabic; however, most speakers in the Arabic-speaking world list their own dialect as the “best” form.
Despite the feeling among some Moroccans that their dialect is not the “best,” various blogs and Facebook pages have appeared that attempt to reclaim the dialect. One page (which is now deactivated) acted as a “blacklist” where users would list famous people who accommodated to outsiders and used Modern Standard Arabic or a Middle Eastern dialect, instead of their Moroccan dialect. As most of the individuals who were blacklisted were women, it lead to a larger discussion of how language accommodation often translates into sexual accommodation as well, particularly because of the fact that Moroccan women are often over-sexualized in Middle Eastern entertainment.
Overall, this discussion helped me learn more about the Moroccan dialect, its history, and the unique challenges it faces. While in the past it seemed as though Moroccan dialect speakers would be forced to accommodate for other Arabic speakers, the lecture ended on a hopeful note that Moroccans are fighting for their language and for its recognition.