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The choice of religion in Kabylia


The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master, not knowing that this is only a fantasy produced by a new knot in the master’s whiplash.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Today in Kabylia, as elsewhere, every human being who claims to ancient beliefs, ie polytheism, renamed mythologies, is suspected of heresy by the monotheistic and fascism, for the best of racism, by the defenders of the “living together” ideal, often democrats and secular, of course at the expense of old beliefs we have relegated to the realm of art in powerful countries and to folklore and superstition in the less developed countries.

The Kabyle man, like most of his peers by the way, except atheists, is unable to consider another religion outside the monotheistic system, when this is the case, he turned to Buddhism or a Hindu cult still active. As to focus on the beliefs of the ancestors, the thing is unthinkable for him. Anzar and other deities, populating its myths, he thinks as his rulers that it is has-been. Worse, for him, they are survivals of old women beliefs.

The women excluded from formal worship, her beliefs are too. Although the Kabyle man by his allegiance to Islam, he remains a Muslim, arabized by Islam, a bad Muslim, that is to say knowing nothing in the matter. Evidence, even the most famous Kabyle religious in Kabylia are not recognized outside the Djurdjura’s mountains. Cheikh Mohand is certainly “deified” by his own, but for a non-Kabyle, he was a charlatan without holiness nor authority.

In the business of Belief, the Kabyle man can demonstrate his supposed spiritual superiority on the woman only by his belief in the divine power of the dominants, namely, the god of his masters. For proof, during periods of drought, the Kabyle woman turns to Anzar when the Kabyle man bows and kneels before the unique, from the desert.

In the Kabyle village, the mosque is reserved for men. A place forbiden to women, as the market and the political assembly. Here are three areas where the Kabyle man shows his strength towards women, three areas that allow him to manage locally and where he gets all his manhood and honor. To swear by Iεessasen /guardians; by Ubdir/Jupiter; by taḥbult n yiṭij/celestial body is for the Kabyle man, some women practices. The man, he swears by Mecca, the Qur’an, by Allah, by Rebbi, by Ṣṣellaḥ/Saints and Jmaε Liman(1) /by all oaths (According to Jean-Marie Dallet)

As a good Mediterranean, the Kabyle man,  supporter of manhood, likes to stand out from the woman, and that in everything, even in the realm of belief. Women belief has not changed since the Greek Archaic Age when polytheism was the official religion of the state, she was accused of magic and superstitions for all the nocturnal rites. The Kabyle man think all superstieuses practices of their women are secretly directed against him. This idea did not only made the unanimity among Muslims, but also among Christians and in a lesser degrees in the ancient polytheists, who unlike the monotheistic religions, women officially played a big role in the day rites of the cities, there are even priestesses at the head of temples and sanctuaries.

The choice of the Kabyle man is therefore determined in opposition of the woman’s choice. In everything about religion, he sett the woman away. Holder of the absolute truth, he dominates with the new religion, sensitive to gender differences, the woman he wants workhorse, domestic, sexual object, procreator of males,  and believing (in Him of course). The man status has no meaning for the Kabyle, except compared to women. Any foreign domination he is forced to undergo will project him against his partner. He seems to say to his master: “I agree to behumiliated(2), just let me humiliate my wife.”

This is everyday life for the Kabyle man and for all African man. Compartmentalized in his colinised mind, he takes revenge as he can. According to Machiavelli “In nature, the medium-sized birds chases smaller birds to forget the bigger ones who er chasing them.” The colonized man, humiliated, seeks to humiliate weaker than himself, and in the case of the African man, he plays the dominant before the woman. He made her suffer the same laws he suffered. And to save his honor and be convinced of his bravery, he begins to believe in the God of his master more than the master himslef, he even claim it aloud. He is reassured to see himself believing more to the dominant God and help him to bear his suffering, to find it sweet by boasting about choosing his own belief.

The Kabyle man take pleasure in the religion he claims to have chosen, it gives him power, that of a small head on a worker, that of a corporal on a simple soldier, that of a slave on his wife. The Kabyle man can not free himself from the misogyny feelings before freeing himself from its chains, from all the chains that hinder and prevent it from moving forward and get free. He seems to say to those men and women who are trying to free him. Pull me out from my wretched egg, but without breaking it

However, even if many pagan survivals remain in the religious practices of women, they are embedded in to other practices, Islamic, Jewish and Christian. We can talk about religious syncretism involving all religions that North Africa has known since very ancient times. Female paganism, in addition to being shy, remains unconscious and not assumed. Every era has left its traces. As would say Aït Menguellet: “Win i d-iṛuḥen, yebbwi-d Rebbi-s amεIwen/Whoever comes, brings his god as help.”

All these women’s religious practices are not taken seriously by either the lamda Kabyle who se himself as a good Muslim, nor by Arab and french speaking intellectuals(3). The first talk about superstitions, the second about animism and through the bag in folklore and archaic traditions. Those practices are fought and ridiculed to the point of making them disappear of the Kabyle religious landscape, which eventually open a royal road to Islamism. The Kabyle intelligentsia has consciously or unconsciously participated in bad faith for some, in good faith for other, to the destruction of ancient beliefs(4), especially women beliefs, which made it easier for the Algerian junta in its mission of re-islamization of the Kabyle country. Kabyle boy, after his early years learning from his mother who taught him everything, including speaking Kabyle, then the father intervenes during the adolescence to make a man of him, that is to say an anti-woman, a good Muslim, away from the culture of his mother, and whose virility is confirmed only in the choice of the religion of his father. Men who remain attached to their mother, that is to say to culture, are frowned upon and treated badly. This was not the case in Athens or Rome, the man stands a woman more in politics and business. Greek man is a citizen or political according to Aristotle. The Kabyle man is Muslim. Muslim by principle, from jmaε liman, anti-woman and anti-culture. They leave this work to the women: to dance, sing, tell stories to children. The Kabyle man has other fish to fry: to eat, he imitates his master, speaks as he,  recreates his language sprinkled with authoritarian Arab words, religious formulas and salamleks. He treats his peers who do not pay in the language of redjla (to behave like an Arab, preferably a policeman or a soldier, virility dragons) of wimps or old woman.

The most striking example is Kabyle youth who spend their national service in Arabic-speaking areas. They return in villages with other behaviors and another language. They speak as Hadarat / officers of the barracks. They imitate them in their actions. Sometimes they listen to the same music. In their desire to resemble their masters(5), they create an false authority and  use it  against their wives and sisters. The barracks, city, Mecca, and even emigration to France profoundly transform the Kabyle man. How many immigrants from older generations, living in France, Arabized and Islamized return to the village with Arab music in their luggage. These are the most likely to say Nekweni s Waεṛaben /We Arabs.” All this happens in a religious communitarianism where Kabyles go alongside Arabs, especially in the month of Ramadan, when they fast and celebrate together(6) the event in the Algerian bars in France. This sense of belonging to the Kabyle Arab-Muslim community is accentuated by the war, where he joined his Arabic neighbor to get rid of the French colonist from Algeria. Period when the qualifier Lxawa / Brothers became the leitmotif of the “revolution.”

The Kabyle man, religious animal?

Religion has played a major role during the war in Algeria that some speak of “holy war. ” A war against the Christian and all that comes from the North of the Mediterranean. The Kabyle, active stakeholder of the war, was more hard in the liberation of a country with an official arab identity and Muslim religion. The Kabyle fought fiercely against the new colon to release the old one, with whom he shared the same religion for several centuries. The old settler who colonized in turn allied themselves with the colonized Kabyle for free himself and again become the new master of the house. Just released from recent colonialism, the Kabyle finds himself once again under the yoke of Lxawa (7)/ Brothers, otherwise the old settler that the political class present as  Arabized Berber, victim of the Arab-Islamic ideology that the Kabyle must understand, support and even better, adapt to it.

Blinded by justice, the Kabyle seems to forget the essential: the politic(8). That the various settlers practiced with the sole motto “The end justifies the means.” Good “servant”, the Kabyle faces death for the cause of his former master and always ends up betraying his own cause. We still see today Kabyle willing to kill their brothers in blood to save the religion of their masters. They use the same words as their tormentors against other Kabyles who refuse to hunker down(9). In order to please their superiors, they became their eyes, ears and even their armed arms in the Kabyle country .

The Kabyle think that by fighting for the interests of his master, he will sooner or later attract its good graces. His whole existence is linked to the recognition of the other and in all areas, especially language and culture. Nothing exists for him if the other, the dominant, does not recognize him. Just for that the latter will allows him to celebrate in folklore his traditions, he makes him allegiance and commit to do so in compliance with the national constants, that is to say, those of his “enemy”. All these frustrations and humiliations, the Kabyle, in its condition of dominated, eventually overthrow them, like the enslaved peoples of Nietzsche, who reversed all values: fear becomes prudence, cowardice tolerance and obedience faith in God, the God of the master of course.

Few servants(10) know(11) that they are servants. Many Kabyles reject the idea that their ancestors have embraced Islam by the force of the sword. They pride themselves on being free and the choice of Islam by their ancestors was a voluntary act. There are examples in nature that we sometimes use as illustration as the toad’s habit, terrorized by fear to enter alone in the open mouth of a snake.

The situation of the slave seeking recognition of his master is very well described by Muḥend U Yeḥya in “Akli d Sidi-s/ The slave and his master”: One day, a slave met a wise man and told him crying the miserable conditions in which he lived. The wise man said: “Do not worry, one day, God will reward you.” and he went. One day, while bandits attacked by night the house of the master, the slave woke up and put them of. The master arrived, the slave began to tell him how he put of the bandits and save the house of his master. The master looked at him and said “He he he”. A few days later, the slave again met the wise, he said to him: “It is true what you told me the other day, God finally rewarded me.” The wise man smiled: “You see, I had predicted it to you.”

Ameziane Kezzar and Mohand Loumaci

 (1) Some certify that Jmaε Liman means By all beliefs, arguments often used by Kabyle secularists to prove the spirit of tolerance towards other religions among the Kabyles. According to Jean-Marie Dallet Jmaε Liman means By all oaths, considering of course that the word Liman is the plural formword Limin /Oath. Jmaε liman mean in this case, “I swear by all variants oaths that exist.” “By all oaths” and “By all beliefs” have two different meanings. The hypothesis of Jeana Marie Dallet is most likely because Jmaε Liman, an oath exclusively masculin and of Islamic inspiration, can not embrace other religions than the majority of Kabyles practice, namely Islam.
(2) It is said that during the war, a woman was the standing sentry when her husband, an armed combatant, dined at home. At the approach of enemy soldiers, the woman shouted at her husband and said, “Run away husband, your husband has just arrived.”
(3) These french speaking intellectuals recognize many merits to the Kabyle woman. They recognize her especially the credit of transmitting Kabyle culture and language. But about religion, they tend to think like the majority of Kabyle men. In their desire to rid their society of all “superstition” to opt for the rational mind, they succeeded, against their will, to hunt Iεessasen/The geniuss or Guardians whom the junta has quickly replaced by Imam and all kinds of Islamic charlatans. 
(4)  Ancient beliefs have suffered the same fate wherever the Middle Eastern monotheism is installed. How else to explain the fact that Europeans, direct heirs of the Greco-Roman culture and civilization rather chose in religious matter beliefs comming from the East. Was Ancient Greece right in everything except religion? And for the Kabyle intellectuals, does the Kabyle woman only right in the transmission of Kabyle language and culture, but not religion?  
(5) Ibn Kheldoune wrote in El-Muqdima: “The dominated tends to imitate the dominant.”
(6) Event which French television reproduces annually until today, under the name “Night of Ramadan,” where organizers gather around the program Kabyle and Arabic artists.
(7) Even the word for sibling between Kabyles and Arabs is of Arabic origin. While this is only a word for naming the relationship linking the two ethnic groups, but the balance of power is in favor of the Arabic language, the sacred language, the language of the dominant. The report of linguistic power in Algeria is illustrative of political relations between the Arabs (Prevailing) and Kabyle (Dominated). At all levels of society, the Kabyle is summoned to speak Arabic for his “Xuya” to understand. Even in Kabylia, its inhabitants, when they have to do with an Arab, they begin to speak in their language. Is this a form of respect? Is this a form of submission? If for the Kabyle, to adapt is a matter of respect, for his brother-enemy it is different: he is the master of the country and the dominated Kabyle must comply with its exigeances. The language ratio is a meaningful way to find out from which side is power.
(8) The dream of the Kabyle is to build a strong state and a just society based on human laws is faced with the reality of the other which is purely political, whose will is to establish the laws of God, of course, their god to perpetuate their dominance and power. The Kabyle idea of the State is that of the universal man and has its origins in the Greco-Roman high antiquity and that of their opponent remains purely oriental with origins from the ancient Persian era, where the power was concentrated in the hands of the great king, chosen by the gods. This tradition continued with the Ottoman sultan, and nowadays by raïs who consider themselves representative of God on earth and have the right of life and death over their subjects.
(9) Black Africans captivated during the slave trade ended up marrying the religion of their masters. They became even more fanatical than the first in their way of practicing religion. The plantation slaves treated their fellow, less religious and likely to regain their freedom, as misguided people who risk the wrath of God upon them. The God of the enemy suddenly became their only hope who will save them after death. Their lives lost, they cling to heaven and they sincerely believed the deserved it more than their masters.
(10) To better understand the state of the slave who clings to its status, we invite you to read the book of Etienne de La Béotie “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude”
(11) “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Harriett Tubman (born 182O/1822 in Maryland, died in 1913 in the State of New York, escaped slave.)
(12) Added to this, the passive attitude, unconsciously accomplice Kabyle politicians. Overwhelmed, unable to defend freedom, they chain up people by persuading them that this is not a problem, it does not hinder movement. 

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