Mohamed Chafik

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"Muḥammad Shafīq" redirects here. For the Pakistan soldier and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor, see Mohammad Shafiq. For the Ramadhan Foundation chief executive, see Mohammed Shafiq.
Mohamed Chafik
ⵎⵓⵃⵎⵎⴰⴷ ⵛⴰⴼⵉⵇ محمد شفيق
Born (1926-09-17) September 17, 1926 (age 90)
Bir Tam-Tam, Aït Sadden (near Fes), Morocco
Occupation Professor, First Rector of the IRCAM
Nationality Moroccan
Notable works Amazigh Manifesto, Arabic-Amazigh Dictionary
Notable awards Prince Claus Award

Mohamed Chafik (Berber: ⵎⵓⵃⵎⵎⴷ ⵛⴰⴼⵉⵇ; Arabic: محمد شفيق‎‎), born 17 September 1926, is a leading figure in the Amazigh (also known as Berber) cultural movement. An original author of the Amazigh Manifesto, he was later appointed as the first Rector of the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture. He has worked extensively on incorporating Amazigh culture into Moroccan identity and is a leading intellectual of the Moroccan intelligentsia.

Early Life and Education[edit]

Mohamed Chafik was born in the small village of Béni Ait Sadden, located in the Middle Atlas. He was born to a wealthy agricultural family and was raised in a devout Muslim household. At the age of 8 he began his French-Moroccan education. He would later describe this as "la troisième de mes dimensions socio-culturelles : ma marocanité". Chafik went on to be educated at the elite collége d'Azrou. There he was taught by My Ahmed Zemmouri, who was a proponent of Moroccan independence from France. He finished his secondary education at the now infamous lycée Moulay Youssef, temporarily closed due to student protests that erupted in 1944. During the tensions surrounding Moroccan independence, Chafik was lucky to avoid conscription, unlike many of his other graduating classmates from the collége d'Azrou. Despite interruptions of his education due to political strife, he would go on to receive degrees in Arabic, Amazigh, history, and pedagogy.[1]

Professional Work and Amazigh Activism[edit]

Early Work[edit]

Before explicitly working for the Amazigh cause, Chafik held a number of other positions that would prove to be helpful in the future. He began his career as a teacher in the mid 1950s. He specifically worked as a teacher for the cause of educating girls, specifically those in rural areas. In the late 1960s into the 1970s he was promoted through the ranks of Moroccan civil service in education. He would eventually occupy the positions of Secretary of State Education and member of the royal cabinet, running le Collége Royal. During his time in these posts he advocated for strong bilingual education, but gained little traction in the face of hegemonic French.[2]

During this time as well, he wrote extensively about the place of the Amazighs in Moroccan and African culture. One of the ideologies he focused on was the importance of using an intersectional lens to look at the ethnic and linguistic complexities of Morocco. He is noted for finding a middle ground between Arab-nationalists and Islamists. He pointed out that Morocco is not a purely Arab nation and nor is Islam solely compatible with Arab identity. One of his most notable professional conflicts was with Abdesslam Yassine, a colleague he met in the Ministry of Education. Yassine, a staunch Islamist, used the argument that Islamic-Arab indentity of Morocco is tied intrinsically to quranic Arabic. Without rejecting Islam or Arabic, Chafik retorted that there was no justification for the suppression of Amazigh language in the Quran, citing the verse that reads "the Arab is no better than the foreigner, nor the foreigner than the Arab but in piety."[3]

In 1980 Chafik joined as a co-founder l’Association culturelle amazighe (the Amazigh Culture Association). This was the first of its kind to use the preferred term 'amazigh' instead of 'berber'. Chafik advocated for this terminological change to represent the people's actual language. The word 'berber' comes from Latin for barbarian, which in itself is pejorative. Amazigh is the people's chosen word and literally translates to 'the free people'. Unfortunately, l’Association culturelle amazighe was short lived. In 1982 the association's leader, Sidqi Azayko, was arrested and imprisoned for a year which prompted Chafik and his colleagues to suspend the association.[4]

The Manifesto and IRCAM[edit]

The year 2000 was the most significant year for the Amazigh cultural movement. It was in this year that Chafik wrote and presented 'Un manifeste pour la reconnaissance officielle de l’amazighité du Maroc', more commonly known as the Amazigh Manifesto. It was in this manifesto that he laid out a nine point argument for the promotion of their language and culture and demanded official recognition from the Moroccan Government. The manifesto was signed by over two hundred other activists, writers, and Amazigh artists.

The manifesto proved to be influential as on 17 October 2001, not even one year later after the manifesto's publication, King Mohammed VI established by dahir l'Institut royal de la culture amazighe. Chafik would later be named the first rector of the institute but refused to receive a salary. One of the first issues worked on by the institute was the standardization of the Amazigh orthography. There was little consensus on how to approach this issue as many Arab-nationalists lobbied for the use of Arabic script. Chafik and many other Amazigh scholars identified this as problematic. Chafik's suggestion was to teach the language using orthographies that represented all the languages spoken in Morocco: Arabic, French, and Amazigh. There has been little consensus since this suggestion and no official policy has been reached by the Moroccan government.


In 1972 he received the chevalier of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

In 2002 Chafik received the Principal Award (Laureate) from the Prince Claus Fund[5] for his academic achievements.


  • Arabic Amazigh Dictionary. Vol. 1-3. Rabat, Morocco: Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco. ISBN 9789981950245. OCLC 25345544. 
  • Chafik, M, La poésie amazighe et la résistance armée dans le Moyen Atlas et l’Est du Haut Atlas, revue de l’Académie du Royaume, no4, 1987
  • A Brief Survey of Thirty-Three Centuries of Amazigh History. Rabat, Morocco: El Maârif Al Jadida. 2005. ISBN 9789954439135. OCLC 600507818. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maddy-Weitzman, Bruce (2011). The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States. University of Texas Press, Austin. 
  2. ^ "Wikiwix's cache". 
  3. ^ Maddy-Weitzman, Bruce (2011). The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States. University of Texas Press, Austin.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  4. ^ "Wikiwix's cache". 
  5. ^ Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development

External links[edit]