By Dr Ismail Suayah.
North Carolina, US, 27 August:
My fondest memories of my childhood in rural Libya were of Eid Al-Fitr. It . . .[restrict]wasn’t the rare gifts of new clothes and money that made the holiday magical; it was witnessing my illiterate father reconcile with relatives and friends as well as seeing tribal conflicts resolved. Eid’s greatest gifts have always been forgiveness and reconciliation.
So it was particularly distressing to read about the violence that erupted in this year’s Eid and the days that followed. During Ramadan, Muslims in Libya endured long, hot summer days of fasting in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees made more difficult by chronic electricity outages. On the eve of Eid, just as people began to gather for the Eid prayer, a car bomb in the capital city claimed the lives of two people and injured five others. Thirty-two presumed Qaddafi regime loyalists were arrested by Libya’s security forces for allegedly planting the bomb.
Since then, the relative peace Libyans enjoyed during the holy month of Ramadan has been shattered: a car bomb targeted an Egyptian diplomat in Benghazi, a feud between two families in the town of Zlitan left a dozen people dead and injured more than 40, and more than 100 tanks and 30 rocket launchers were supposedly seized from a Tarhuna militia for alleged association with the car bombing in Tripoli. In the town of Zlitan also, an armed group destroyed the city’s historical Sufi shrine of Sidi Abdussalam Al-Asmar along with its library of rare, religious texts.
This Eid, which marks the first anniversary of Tripoli’s liberation, the Libyan people are in dire need of the holy season’s gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation, because Libya is at a crossroads. So much has been accomplished since the liberation of Tripoli: a dictator overthrown, a General National Congress (GNC) elected, its president named, a transfer of power achieved. What happens next shall determine whether Libya achieves long-term stability and economic prosperity or descend into civil war.
With the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, the door to freedom swung open to Libyans. Libyan citizens, however, will not be truly free until they shed the heavy burden of hate towards former regime collaborators, enemies and oppressors. Nor will they be free without setting aside family, tribal and regional feuds that are threatening the nation’s unity.
In his classic 1970 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the Brazilian author Paulo Freire points out that, during the initial stage of struggle, “the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors … in order for this struggle to have a meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity …, become in turn oppressors, but rather restore humanity of both.”
To put it in a Muslim perspective, the struggle for liberation will only be sanctified to the extent that Libyans exercise forbearance and discern between the desire for revenge and the desire for justice. In the absence of a constitution or a sound legal system, Libyans cannot expect peace and justice to come from external frameworks; it can only be found in their own hearts.
The outcome of this internal Jihad – to seek and maintain patience, understanding and compassion – will determine the outcome of the country’s revolution. In Surat Ar-Ra`d (Qur’an 13:11) Allah (Azza Azza Wajal) says “indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Libyans have overcome an oppressive regime; now their challenge is to change the way they see themselves in the context of oppression. To be free from oppression, they must liberate others.
Accountability and justice will come in due time, after we have established a constitution and a sound legal system. In the meantime, we each must question our complacency in the oppressive treatment of women, children and minorities – the most vulnerable among us. The punishment of Tawerghans, Mashashians and other tribes (or groups) by those whom they have allegedly wronged is oppressive. The ongoing conflicts — family, tribal, or otherwise — must be viewed in the context of their threat to the country’s unity. Libyan citizens and elected leaders must take a stand on these issues. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) came to end tribalism and create an Umma (community) from warring tribes; yet tribalism in Libya is threatening to shatter our country.
Reconciliation is the only way for Libya to become truly free and to maintain its unity. Without it, the potential for civil war is high and so is the potential for partitioning the country.
Most Libyans dream of transforming their country into a land where peace and justice prevail and economic opportunities abound. For the dream to become reality, Libya needs national reconciliation to lay the foundation for unity, peace and stability. With the passing of this Eid, I pray that Libyans in their country and across the globe seek forgiveness of and reconciliation from one another so that together we can create a brighter future.
Dr Ismail Suayah is a former geo-marine scientist, currently working in the software industry. He lives in the United States in the state of North Carolina with his wife and two children. [/restrict]