By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 13 November 2013:
Ghariyan Congressman and National Front Party member Muhammed Younis Toumi has sparked controversy over the poisition of . . .[restrict]the Tamazight language, saying Arabic should be the only official language of Libya. He stressed that it was very important to safeguard the rights of minorities in Libya but the identity of the Libyan state is its Arabic culture and language – a statement which met with support from other members of Congress.
The statement came as a surprise to many observers given the good reputation the National Front Party enjoys among the Amazigh community. The party responded immediately by releasing a statement distancing itself from what he had said, calling it a “surprise and the personal view of Mohammed Younis Toumi”. The statement also noted that NFP fully supported the cultural and linguistic freedom of the minorities and that this should be protected by enshrining it in the constitution.
“The statement by Mohammed Younis Toumi is merely his personal opinion and does not represent the viewpoint or principles of the party.”
Speaking to the Libya Herald, Mohammed Toumi explained that he intended no malice towards minorities or their rights.
“I have always supported the rights of all minority groups. I said it with complete recognition of the minorities, and ensuring their rights is unquestionable. I said that the identity of Libya is its Arabic language and culture that connects it to the region and that should be protected. The Arab culture or language is not only for Arabs but also for Tuareqs, Amazighs and all others. I believe this is something that most Libyans would agree with. ”
He also said that the official language should be the one that connects everybody and safeguards the identity of the country.
“The official language brings together everybody and if you add another language then other minorities would also call for the same. I believe there are 20 such groups in Libya.”
A surprised Toumi also criticised the move by his party to release a statement distancing itself from his statement. He questioned the authority of those who released it.
“I don’t know who issued it. I was never asked by anyone to explain my point and I then saw the released statement. I’m an elected member of the supreme committee of the party but no one consulted me before releasing the statement.”