Kuwaiti-Syrian Ramadan show sparks anger in Morocco over 'historical inaccuracy'

Kuwaiti-Syrian Ramadan show sparks anger in Morocco over 'historical inaccuracy'
Muhammad Sami Al-Anzi's, the director, decision to keep the background of the show's protagonist, Tariq Ibn Ziyad, vague sparked anger amongst Moroccans who view Ibn Ziyad as one of the most important historical heroes of the Amazigh.
4 min read
12 April, 2022
"It is humiliating to see this narrative broadcasted on our national television," said a Moroccan Amazigh. [Getty]

A Kuwaiti-Syrian Ramadan television series, titled "Fath- Al-Andalous", sparked a backlash among Moroccans, who accuse the producers of erasing the Amazigh identity of the series' main protagonist, Tariq Ibn Ziyad. 

Ibn Ziyad was a key figure in Islamic history who as an army commander that oversaw the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 AD and established Al-Andalus.

Despite being regarded as one of the most prominent Umayyad military leaders in history, Ibn Ziyad's origins remain unknown with historians divided on whether he had Amazigh Moroccan, Algerian, Arabic or Farsi roots.

Due to the ongoing debates, Muhammad Sami Al-Anzi, the series's director, had decided to keep the military leader's identity vague.

"There are many stories about his origins, so we decided to not tackle that as what matters for us is to portray the coexistence of the Islamic military with the people of the region," Al-Anzi had said the BBC Arabic TV.

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Moroccans, particularly from the Amazigh community, who for decades championed Ibn Ziyad's legacy and embraced him as one their key heroes, felt "betrayed and humiliated" when the Moroccan state TV began airing the series.  

"I was sceptical when they first announced the series. But when I watched the first episode I was shocked. He is speaking classic Arabic and sporting clothes that were nothing like what we wear in North Africa. It is a deformed version of our national hero. It is humilating to see this narrative on our national TV," Soufian, a Moroccan Amazigh student, told The New Arab.

Under the Arabic hashtag, "El Aaraychi get ou," Moroccan social media users have urged that the series be removed from Morocco's national television, and called for the suspension of the head of Moroccan state TV Faissal El Aaraychi for approving its release.

The series is also aired on different Arab channels, including Kuwait TV and MBC1. 

For its part, the Moroccan Socialist Party brought up the matter in Morocco's parliament, criticising the government for "spending Moroccans' taxes on a narrative that did not do justice to Moroccan history."

"The conquest of Andalus is a Moroccan event, as the conquest took place through northern Morocco with North African armies mainly Moroccans (...) But the series obscures almost all of this and makes the Maghreb just a geographic route for the Umayyad armies of the Levant, and the Moroccans are just [a side character] under the leadership of Levantine individuals," the opposition party added in a written inquiry to the government.

Syrian actor Suhail Jebai plays Tariq Ibn Ziyad, while Hisham Bahloul, the only Moroccan actor in the series, plays the role of Shaddad, Tariq Ibn Ziyad’s friend and leader of his army.

Ouissam Chahir, head of the Center for African Studies and Research at the Faculty of Arts in Oujda in northern Morocco, notes that the hypothesis of Ibn Ziad's Moroccan Amazigh roots is likely the most plausible, given the abundance of evidence amongst historical texts.

"Ibn Adhari and other historians narrate from the Moroccan historian, Saleh bin Abi Saleh, that Tariq Ibn Ziyad belongs to the Amazigh Nafza tribe, and that his father Ziyad had converted to Islam after the conquests of Uqba bin Nafie of the Maghreb," Chahir said to The New Arab.

Reaction over the Ramadan series also sparked off fierce debate amongst Moroccans and Algerians, who both agree that Ibn Ziad was Amazigh but heavily disagree over whether his tribe was Algerian or Moroccan in origin.

Moroccan and Algerian historians each have pointed to conflicting sources to justify their respective narratives, considering that the borders between the two neighbouring countries were undefined at the time.

To date, neither the Moroccan nor the Algerian governments have remarked officially to the controversy.