Arabization or Arabisation
) describes both the process of growing Arab
influence on non-Arab populations, causing a language shift
by their gradual adoption of the Arabic language
and their incorporation of the culture, as well as the Arab nationalist
policies of some governments in modern Arab countries toward non-Arab minorities, including Lebanon
, and (when it governed territory) the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Historically, aspects of the culture of the Arabian Peninsula
were combined in various forms with the cultures of conquered regions and ultimately denominated "Arab". After the rise of Islam
in the Hejaz
, Arab culture and language were spread outside the Arabian Peninsula through conquest, trade and intermarriages between members of the non-Arab local population and the peninsular Arabs. Even within the Arabian Peninsula itself, Arabization occurred to non-Arab populations such as the Sabaeans
of Yemen and Hutaym
of Kuwait and northern Arabia. The Arabic language began to serve as a lingua franca
in these areas and dialects
were formed. Although Yemen
is traditionally held to be the homeland of the Qahtanite
Arabs who, according to Arab tradition, are pure Arabs, most of the Yemeni population in fact did not speak Arabic
prior to the spread of Islam, but Old South Semitic languages
The influence of Arabic has been profound in many other countries whose cultures have been influenced by Islam. Arabic was a major source of vocabulary for various languages. This process reached its zenith between the 10th and 14th centuries, the high point of Arab culture
Early Arab expansion in the Near East
After Alexander the Great
, the Nabataean kingdom
emerged and ruled a region extending from north of Arabia to the south of Syria. the former originating from the Arabian peninsula, who came under the influence of the earlier Aramaic
culture, the neighbouring Hebrew culture of the Hasmonean kingdom, as well as the Hellenistic cultures in the region (especially with the Christianization
of Nabateans in 3rd and 4th centuries). The pre-modern Arabic language was created by Nabateans, who developed the Nabataean alphabet
which became the basis of modern Arabic script
. The Nabataean language
, under heavy Arab influence, amalgamated into the Arabic language
The Byzantines and Sasanians used the Ghassanids and Lakhmids to fight proxy wars in Arabia against each other.
History of Arabization
Arab conquests 622 AD to 750 AD
Arabization during the early Caliphate
South Arabia is a historical region that consists of the southern region of the Arabian Peninsula, mainly centered in what is now the Republic of Yemen, yet it also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir, which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and the Dhofar of present-day Oman.
is traditionally held to be the homeland of Arabs, most
of the sedentary Yemeni population did not speak Arabic (but instead Old South Arabian languages
) prior to the spread of Islam.
Sassanian weaponry, 7th century.
After the rise of Islam, the Arab tribes unified under the banner of Islam and conquered modern Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories, Iraq and Syria. However, even before the emergence of Islam, the Levant was already a home for several pre-Islamic Arabian kingdoms. The Nabateans
kingdom of Petra which was based in Jordan, the Ghassanids
kingdom which was based in the Syrian desert. Some of these kingdoms were under the indirect influence of the Romans
, and the Persian Sassanids
. The Nabateans transcript developed in Petra was the base for the current Arabic transcript while the Arab heritage is full of poetry recording the wars between the Ghassanids
Arabian tribes in Syria. In the 7th century, and after the dominance of Arab Muslims within a few years, the major garrison towns
developed into the major cities. The local Arabic
speaking population, which shared a very close Semitic linguistic/genetic ancestry with the Qahtani
Arabs, was somewhat Arabized. The indigenous Assyrians
largely resisted Arabization in Upper Mesopotamia
, the Assyrians of the north continued to speak Akkadian
dialects descending from the Imperial Aramaic
of the Assyrian Empire
, together with Syriac
which was founded in Assyria in the 5th century BC, and retaining Assyrian Church of the East
and Syriac Orthodox Church Christianity
. These linguistic and religious traditions still persist to the present day. The Gnostic Mandeans
also retained their ancient culture, religion and Mandaic
language after the Arab Islamic conquest, and these too still survive today.
North Africa and Iberia
Neither North Africa nor the Iberian Peninsula were strangers to Semitic culture: the Phoenicians
and later the Carthaginians
dominated parts of the North African and Iberian shores for more than eight centuries until they were suppressed by the Romans
and by the following Vandal
invasions, and the Berber
incursions. After the Arab
invasion of North Africa, The Berber
tribes allied themselves with the Umayyad
Arab Muslim armies in invading the Iberian Peninsula. Later, in 743 AD, the Berbers defeated the Arab Umayyad armies and expelled them for most of West North Africa (al-Maghreb al-Aqsa) during the Berber Revolt
, but not the territory of Ifriqiya which stayed Arab (East Algeria, Tunisia, and West-Libya). Centuries later some migrating Arab tribes
settled in some plains while the Berbers remained the dominant group mainly in desert areas including mountains. The Inland North Africa remained exclusively Berber until the 11th century; the Iberian Peninsula
, on the other hand, remained Arabized, particularly in the south, until the 16th century.
After finishing the establishment of the Arab city of Al Mahdiya
in Tunisia and spreading the Islamic Shiite
faith, some of the many ArabFatimids
left Tunisia and parts of eastern Algeria to the local Zirids
The invasion of Ifriqiya by the Banu Hilal
, a warlike Arab Bedouin
tribe encouraged by the Fatimids of Egypt to seize North Africa, sent the region's urban and economic life into further decline.
The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun
wrote that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.
Arabization in Islamic Iberia
Besides Mozarabs, another group of people in Iberia eventually came to surpass the Mozarabs both in terms of population and Arabization. These were the Muladi or Muwalladun
, most of whom were descendants of local Hispano-Basques and Visigoths who converted to Islam and adopted Arabic culture, dress, and language. By the 11th century, most of the population of al-Andalus was Muladi, with large minorities of other Muslims, Mozarabs, and Sephardic Jews
. It was the Muladi, together with the Berber, Arab, and other (Saqaliba
) Muslims who became collectively termed in Christian Europe as "Moors
Arabization in Islamic Sicily, Malta, and Crete
A similar process of Arabization and Islamization occurred in the Emirate of Sicily
), Emirate of Crete
), and Malta (al-Malta
), during this period the majority of these islands populations converted to Islam
and began to adopt elements of Arabic culture
, and customs
. The populations of these islands also saw a major increase in immigration from Arabian
and North African
regions causing these islands to become more genetically diverse. The Arabization process also resulted in the now extinct Siculo-Arabic
language to develop, from which the modern Maltese language
derives. By contrast, the present-day Sicilian language
, which is an Italo-Dalmatian Romance language
, retains very little Siculo-Arabic, with its influence being limited to some 300 words.
Arabization in Sudan
Map showing the late medieval migration of Arabs into Sudan
In 1846, many Arab Rashaida
migrated from Hejaz
in present-day Saudi Arabia into what is now Eritrea
and north-east Sudan after tribal warfare had broken out in their homeland. The Rashaida of Sudan and Eritrea live in close proximity with the Beja people
. Large numbers of Bani Rasheed
are also found on the Arabian Peninsula. They are related to the Banu Abs
The Rashaida speak Hejazi Arabic
Arabization in Sahel
Arabization in modern times
Status of Arabic language map
Arabization in Algeria
Arabization is the process of developing and promoting Arabic into a nation's education system, government, and media in order to replace a former language that was enforced into a nation due to colonization.
Algeria had been conquered by France and even made to be part of its metropolitan core
for 132 years, a significantly longer timespan compared to Morocco and Tunisia, and it was also more influenced by Europe due to the contiguity with French settlers in Algeria: both Algerian and French nationals used to live in the same towns, resulting in the cohabitation of the two populations.
Based on these facts, one might be induced to believe that Algeria's Arabization process would have been the hardest to achieve, but on the contrary it was the smoothest in the Maghreb region. While trying to build an independent and unified nation-state after the Evian Accords
, the Algerian government under Ahmed Ben Bella
’s rule began a policy of “Arabization”. Indeed, due to the lasting and deep colonization, French was the major administrative and academic language in Algeria, even more so than in neighboring countries. The unification and pursuit of a single Algerian identity was to be found in the Arab language and religion, as stated in the 1963 constitution: La langue arabe est la langue nationale et officielle de l’État
("Arabic is the national and official state language") and L'islam est la religion de l'État [...]
("Islam is the state religion") and confirmed in 1969, 1976, 1989, 1996 and 2018. According to Abdelhamid Mehri, the decision of Arabic as an official language was the natural choice for Algerians,
even though Algeria is a plurilingual nation with a minority, albeit substantial, number of Berbers within the nation, and the local variety of Arabic
used in every-day life was distinct from MSA Arabic. However, the process of Arabization was meant not only to promote Islam, but to fix the gap and decrease any conflicts between the different Algerian ethnic groups and promote equality through monolingualism.
In 1964 the first practical measure was the Arabization of primary education and the introduction of religious education, the state relying on Egyptian teachers – belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood
and therefore particularly religious
– due to its lack of literary Arabic-speakers. In 1968, during the Houari Boumediene
regime, Arabization was extended, and a law
tried to enforce the use of Arabic for civil servants, but again, the major role played by French was only diminished. Many laws followed, trying to ban French, Algerian Arabic and Berber
from schools, administrative acts and street signs, but this revived Berber opposition to the state and created a distinction between those educated in Arabic and those in French, the latter still being favored by elites.
The whole policy was ultimately not as effective as anticipated: French had kept its importance
and Berber opposition kept growing, contributing to the 1988 October Riots
. Some Berber groups, like the Kabyles
, felt that their ancestral culture and language were threatened and the Arab identity was given more focus at the expense of their own. After the Algerian Civil War
, the government tried to enforce even more the use of Arabic,
but the relative effect of this policy after 1998 (the limit fixed for complete Arabization) forced the heads of state to make concessions towards Berber
, recognizing it in 2002
as another national language that will be promoted. However, because of literary Arabic's symbolic advantage, as well as being a single language as opposed to the fragmented Berber languages
, Arabization is still a goal for the state, for example with laws on civil and administrative procedures.
After the Algerian school system completed its transition to Arabic in 1989, James Coffman made a study of the difference between Arabized and non-Arabized students at the Université des Sciences et de la Technologie Houari Boumediene (USTHB) and at the University of Algiers
. Interviewing students he found
Arabized students show decidedly greater support for the Islamist
movement and greater mistrust of the West. Arabized students tend to repeat the same ... stories and rumors that abound in the Arabic-language press, particularly Al-Munqidh, the newspaper of the Islamic Salvation Front
. They tell about sightings of the word "Allah" written in the afternoon sky, the infiltration into Algeria of Israeli women spies infected with AIDS, the "disproving" of Christianity on a local religious program,
and the mass conversion to Islam by millions of Americans. ... When asked if the new, Arabized students differed from the other students, many students and faculty answered an emphatic yes.
Arabization in Morocco
Following 44 years of colonization by France,
Morocco began promoting the use of Arabic (MSA Arabic) to create a united Moroccan national identity, and increase literacy throughout the nation away from any predominant language within the administration and educational system. Unlike Algeria, Morocco did not encounter with the French as strongly due to the fact that the Moroccan population was scattered throughout the nation and major cities, which resulted in a decrease of French influence compared to the neighboring nations.
According to these facts, one could consider that Morocco would lay an easier path to Arabization and attain it at a faster rate than its neighboring country Algeria, although the results were on the contrary. First and foremost, educational policy was the main focus within the process, debates surfaced between officials who preferred a "modern and westernized" education with enforcement of bilingualism while others fought for a traditional route with a focus of "Arabo-Islamic culture".
Once the Istiqal Party
took power, the party focused on placing a language policy siding with the traditional ideas of supporting and focusing on Arabic and Islam.
The Istiqal Party
implemented the policy rapidly and by the second year after gaining independence, the first year of primary education was completely Arabized, and a bilingual policy was placed for the remaining primary education decreasing the hours of French being taught in a staggered manner.
Arabization in schools had been more time-consuming and difficult than expected due to the fact that the first 20 years following independence, politicians (most of which were educated in France or French private school in Morocco) were indecisive as to if Arabization was best for the country and its political and economic ties with European nations.
Regardless, complete Arabization can only be achieved if Morocco becomes completely independent from France in all aspects; politically, economically, and socially. Around 1960, Hajj Omar Abdeljalil the education minister at the time reversed all the effort made to Arabize the public school and reverted to pre-independent policies, favoring French and westernized learning.
Another factor that reflected the support of reversing the Arabization process in Morocco, was the effort made by King Hassan II, who supported the Arabization process but in contrary increased political and economic dependence with France.
Due to the fact that Morocco remained dependent to France and wanted to keep strong ties with the western world, French was supported by the elites more than Arabic for the development of Morocco.
Arabization in Tunisia
The Arabization process in Tunisia theoretically should have been the easiest within the North African region because it has less than 1% of Berber speaking population, and practically 100% of the nation is a native Tunisian Darija
Although, it was the least successful due to its dependence on European nations and belief in westernizing the nation for future development of the people and the country. Much like Morocco, Tunisian leaders' debate consumed of traditionalists and modernists, traditionalists claiming that Arabic (specifically Classical Arabic) and Islam are the core of Tunisia and its national identity, while modernists believed that westernized development distant from "Pan- Arabist ideas" are crucial for Tunisia's progress.
Modernists had the upper hand, considering elites supported their ideals, and after the first wave of graduates that had passed their high school examinations in Arabic were not able to find jobs nor attend a university because they did not qualify due to French preference in any upper-level university or career other than Arabic and Religious Studies Department.
There were legitimate efforts made to Arabize the nation from the 1970s up until 1982, though the efforts came to an end and the process of reversing all the progress of Arabization began and French implementation in schooling took effect.
The Arabization process was criticized and linked with Islamic extremists, resulting in the process of "Francophonie" or promoting French ideals, values, and language throughout the nation and placing its importance above Arabic.
Although Tunisia gained its independence, nevertheless the elites supported French values above Arabic, the answer to developing an educated and modern nation, all came from westernization. The constitution stated that Arabic was the official language of Tunisia but nowhere did it claim that Arabic must be utilized within the administrations or every-day life, which resulted in an increase of French usage not only in science and technology courses, but major media channels were French, and government administrations were divided while some were in Arabic others were in French.
Arabization in Sudan
tribes have been accused of killing hundreds of thousands of non-Arab Sudanese in a 2004/05 genocide in Darfur.
is an ethnically-mixed country that is economically and politically dominated by the society of central northern Sudan, where many strongly identify as Arabs and Muslims. The population in southern Sudan consists mostly of Christian and Animist Nilotic people
. The Second Sudanese Civil War
(1983–2005) is typically characterized as a conflict between these two groups of people. In the 2011 Southern Sudanese independence referendum
, the latter voted for secession and became independent.
Arabization in Mauritania
is an ethnically-mixed country that is economically and politically dominated by those who identify as Arabs and/or Arabic-speaking Berbers
. About 30% of the population is considered "Black African
", and the other 40% are Arabized Blacks, both groups suffer high levels of discrimination.
Recent Black Mauritanian protesters have complained of "comprehensive Arabization" of the country.
Arabization in Iraq
In the 1970s, Saddam Hussein exiled
between 350,000 to 650,000 Shia Iraqis of Iranian ancestry (Ajam)
Most of them went to Iran. Those who could prove an Iranian/Persian ancestry in Iran's court received Iranian citizenship (400,000) and some of them returned to Iraq after Saddam
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Anfal campaign
destroyed many Kurdish, Assyrian and other ethnic minority villages and enclaves in North Iraq, and their inhabitants were often forcibly relocated to large cities in the hope that they would be Arabized.
drove out 500,000 people in the years 1991–2003. The Baathists also pressured many of these ethnic groups to identify as Arabs, and restrictions were imposed upon their languages, cultural expression and right to self-identification.
Arabization in Syria
Since the independence of Syria in 1946, the ethnically diverse Rojava
region in northern Syria suffered grave human rights violations, because all governments pursued a most brutal policy of Arabization.
While all non-Arab ethnic groups within Syria, such as Assyrians
have faced pressure from Arab Nationalist
policies to identify as Arabs
, the most archaic of it was directed against the Kurds
. In his report for the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council
titled Persecution and Discrimination against Kurdish Citizens in Syria
, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
"Successive Syrian governments continued to adopt a policy of ethnic discrimination and national persecution against Kurds, completely depriving them of their national, democratic and human rights — an integral part of human existence. The government imposed ethnically-based programs, regulations and exclusionary measures on various aspects of Kurds’ lives — political, economic, social and cultural."
The Kurdish language
was not officially recognized, it had no place in public schools.
A decree from 1989 prohibited the use of Kurdish at the workplace as well as in marriages and other celebrations. In September 1992 another government decree that children be registered with Kurdish names.
Also businesses could not be given Kurdish names.
Books, music, videos and other material could not be published in Kurdish language.
Expressions of Kurdish identity like songs and folk dances were outlawed
and frequently prosecuted under a purpose-built criminal law against "weakening national sentiment".
Celebrating the Nowruz
holiday was often constrained.
In 1973 the Syrian authorities confiscated 750 square kilometers of fertile agricultural land in Al-Hasakah Governorate
, which were owned and cultivated by tens of thousands of Kurdish citizens, and gave it to Arab families brought in from other provinces.
In 2007 in another such scheme in Al-Hasakah governate, 6,000 square kilometers around Al-Malikiyah
were granted to Arab families, while tens of thousands of Kurdish inhabitants of the villages concerned were evicted.
These and other expropriations of ethnic Kurdish citizens followed a deliberate masterplan, called "Arab Belt initiative", attempting to depopulate the resource-rich Jazeera of its ethnic Kurdish inhabitants and settle ethnic Arabs there.
After the Turkish-led forces had captured Afrin District
in early 2018, they began to implement a resettlement policy by moving Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army
fighters and Sunni Arab refugees from southern Syria into the empty homes that belonged to displaced locals.
The previous owners, most of them Kurds or Yazidis
, were often prevented from returning to Afrin.
Refugees from Eastern Ghouta
, said that they were part of "an organised demographic change" which was supposed to replace the Kurdish population of Afrin with an Arab majority.
Arabization in Islamic State of Iraq and Levant campaign
The invaders besieged Medina (modern Mdina), the main settlement on the island, but the inhabitants managed to negotiate peace terms. The Muslims freed Christian captives, swore an oath of loyalty to Roger and paid him an annual tribute. Roger's army then sacked Gozo and returned to Sicily with the freed captives.
The attack did not bring about any major political change, but it paved the way for the re-Christianization of Malta, which began in 1127. Over the centuries, the invasion of 1091 was romanticized as the liberation of Christian Malta from oppressive Muslim rule, and a number of traditions and legends arose from it, such as the unlikely claim that Count Roger gave his colours red and white to the Maltese as their national colours.
in the Iberian Peninsula is the most notable example for a historic reversion of Arabization. The process of Arabization and Islamization was reversed as the mostly Christian kingdoms in the north of the peninsula conquered Toledo
in 1212 and Cordoba
was conquered in January 1492 also the last remaining Emirate on the Peninsula was conquered.
The re-conquered territories later were Romanized
, although the culture, languages and religious traditions imposed differed from those of the previous Visigothic kingdom.
Reversions in modern times
In modern times, there have been various political developments to reverse the process of Arabization. Notable among these are:
- The 1929 introduction of the Latin Alphabet instead of the Arabic Abjad in Turkey as part of the Kemalist reforms.
- The 1948 establishment of the State of Israel as a Jewish polity in their historic homeland, and use of Hebrew as an official language (Arabic however remained co-official).
- The 1992 establishment of Kurdish-dominated polity in the Mesopotamia as Iraqi Kurdistan.
- The 2012 establishment of multi-ethnic Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
- Berberism, a Berber political-cultural movement of ethnic, geographic, or cultural nationalism present in Algeria, Morocco and broader North Africa including Mali. The Berberist movement is in opposition to Islamist-driven cultural Arabization and the pan-Arabist political ideology and also associated with secularism.
- Arabization of Malays was criticized by Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor. He urged the retention of Malay culture instead of introducing Arab culture. He called on people to not mind unveiled women, mixed sex handshaking and to using Arabic words in place of Malay words. He suggested Saudi Arabia as a destination for those who wanted Arab culture. He said that he was going to adhere to Malay culture himself. Abdul Aziz Bari said that Islam and Arab culture are intertwined and criticized the Johor Sultan for what he said. Datuk Haris Kasim also criticized the Sultan for his remarks, he leads the Selangor Islamic Religious Department.
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- This article incorporates text from Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17, by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization), a publication from 1888, now in the public domain in the United States.
- This article incorporates text from Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17, by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization), a publication from 1888, now in the public domain in the United States.
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