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Algeria lawmaker under fire over 'racist' attack on Berber language Open in fullscreen

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Algeria lawmaker under fire over 'racist' attack on Berber language

The Tamazight language was first given official status in Algeria in 2002 [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2018

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An Algerian member of parliament has come under fire after she attacked the language of the country's Berber minority in comments that have been widely condemned as racist.

An Algerian member of parliament has come under fire after she attacked the language of the Berber minority in the North African country with comments that have been widely condemned as racist.

Naima Salhi said in a controversial video posted on social media last month that she would "kill" her young daughter if she spoke Berber.

"My young daughter was in a school where the majority of students are Kabyles so she started to learn their language... I told her if she speaks a word of the language I would kill her," Salhi said.

Salhi explained her divisive comments on local Ennahar TV on Tuesday, saying: "I refuse to let my daughter speak the fabricated Frenchified Kabyle language taught in the Zionist Berber Academy in Paris."

"I would kill her if she spoke it... meaning I would severely punish her," she added.

Salhi, who is the head of the Islamist Justice party, has claimed the Berber Tamazight language is a "dead non-language" that lacks the terminology to be used in science and the public sphere.

The Kabyle, who are the largest Berber minority in Algeria, have long called for greater rights with some separatist movements even calling for an independent Berber state.

Salhi's comments have been widely slammed on social media and have led to lawmakers calling for her resignation.

"We have demanded that the head of parliament take action. This woman cannot be part of a parliament that represents all Algerians," member of parliament Khaled Tazaghart told Ennahar TV on Friday.

Tuareg lawmaker Baba Ali also demanded she resigns for "attacking the culture and identity" of the Berber people, who refer to their community as Amazigh.

The controversy comes amid growing official recognition of the Amazigh people, who make up roughly a quarter of the country's total population.

The Tamazight language was first given official status in Algeria in 2002, a year after bloody riots that left 126 people dead in Kabylie.

In 2016, it became enshrined in the constitution as a state language alongside Arabic.

Last month, the country's interior ministry released its first ever official communique in Tamazight.

In December, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared Amazigh New Year's a national holiday and called for the establishment of an official authority to regulate the Tamazight language.

The move came after protests in Berber communities over lawmakers blocking funding for the teaching of the Tamazight language in government schools.

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