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Re: No, Algeria is an African, Not an Arab, Nation

I frankly didn’t anticipate that last week’s column would resonate with as many people as it did. In particular, I didn’t realize that...

I frankly didn’t anticipate that last week’s column would resonate with as many people as it did. In particular, I didn’t realize that so many people aren’t aware that Algerians are not ethnic Arabs and that “Africa” initially exclusively referred to North Africans. The responses I reproduce below show that the efforts I put to writing my article was worthwhile. Enjoy.

I read your earlier articles on the origins of the term Africa and the “multilingual illiteracy” in Algeria. This is a very good sequel to these articles. Like most of your articles, this was very enlightening. I am sure many people find it hard to believe that Algerians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Libyans, etc. are the original Africans. It was hard for me to believe as well. It’s the ultimate reality check that black people are not Africans. Or never used to be Africans until fairly recently. Thanks for your insights.

Have you considered that the reluctance of Berbers to identify with Africa may have something to do with what you once called “white flight”—that is, white people leaving a place in droves once black people move in there? I guess that was what you were hinting at when you wrote:  “Our blackness has stained the ‘purity’ of their name. Now, they would rather be ‘Arabs’ than ‘Africans.’” They probably had no problems being Africans until black people became part of Africa. But it’s interesting that Arabs don’t consider North Africans as Arabs even though many of us just think of North Africans as Arabs. These identity issues are just confusing. But thanks for another brilliant and informative article. Please don’t writing.
Umar Sabi’u

What I’m about to write may not sit well with you and may not be popular with many people, but I’ll write it anyway. From your write-up, we have learned that black people are not the original Africans. The original Africans are the Berbers in North Africa, who are now avoiding their identity because black people are made to share the identity with them. I suggest that black people cease to be called Africans. Let us carve a separate continent for ourselves and call our continent Kemet, which is an ancient Egyptian word for “Black land.” I am tired of being forced on people who don’t like me. Let Berbers retain their Africa so that they don’t have to beg to be Arabs, which they are not. You wrote that “Arabism and Africanity” are not mutually exclusive…” Well, I think they are. But Africanity and Berberism are not.
Musa Abdullahi

You know what is interesting about the origins of the term Africa that you highlighted in your article? Many pan-Africanists try to tell us that Africa should be spelled with a “K.” They claim that it is the original spelling before Europeans bastardized it. It is laughable to realize that in actual fact “Africa” is a European name, a European creation. As you pointed out, it’s a Latin name for country of Berbers. In a way, North African Berbers are right to reject a name and a continent that was chosen for them by others, but I don’t understand why they hanker after an Arab identity when the real Arabs don’t really care for them. From today, I have stopped being worried about the correct way to spell Africa. I really don’t care about being “African” because I am not one. It’s all European imposition. Knowledge is power. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge and research with us.
Solomon Otunla
Highly informative piece as all your works are. Thanks for, especially, the root of the word and entity Africa... first in my life. 
Salihu Sule Khalid

Nicest write-up of the year. I thumb you up for this analysis. 
Bala Ali

Great write up! Thank you for the research. 
Patricia Badobre

Splendid article. But seriously, how many Blacks really care about these people on the other side of the Sahara and their Middle Eastern kinds? I don't. 
Hassan Alhaji

I have read it. It is nice. Initially I thought Algerians were completely Arabs.
Muhammad Lawal Tijjani

That is true. With that fighting spirit, they are truly Africans.
Ayub Olatokun

A beautiful, well-researched piece, Prof.
Adam Alqali

Very enlightening post. Thanks, Prof., for widening the horizon of knowledge at all times. I look forward to your educative column always.
Adewale Adewole

Very instructive write up. All Africans share common historical attributes.
Godwin Godsent

I know the Egyptians have also lost feel of the ancient Nile, but they have really integrated. They speak some of the best classical Arab while I don‘t know if they also speak some of the ancient languages. Please, weigh in on this, Prof!
Abdullahi AbdullahiGinya

My Response:
Most contemporary Egyptians are ethnic Arabs whose ancestors invaded and conquered Egypt from Arabia between the 7th and 8th centuries. They are not “native” to Egypt, and they are different from the Berbers of the Maghreb. The Copts, who constitute about 10 percent of the Egyptian population, are considered the surviving descendants of ancient Egyptians.

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