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Monday, 6 October, 2008, 3:40 ( 1:40 GMT )
Opinion: Mu'ammar Al-Qathafi: The Man Behind The Name
By B.Y. Muhammad
07/09/2008 00:09:00
The result of the impotence of the Arab world was seen in the stunning defeat of Arab armies in the Middle East in June 1967 during the Arab - Israeli war. Arab illusion of nationalism lay scattered with the burnt out shells of tanks in the Sinai Peninsula.

No matter the excuses that were advanced for these disasters, for instances, the lack of weaponry or international support and so on, the fact remains that Arab armies fighting under the banner of Arab nationalism were not only defeated but humiliated. The Arab world lay in disarray because it had angled from their traditional value system - Islam.

It was in those dark days that the Fateh Revolution in Libya came like a flash of lightening on the world scene on 1st September 1969.

The leadership of Mu'ammar al Al-Qathafi, a charismatic army colonel who emerged from the very roots of Islam, struck an instant chord with the oppressed Muslim masses worldwide. With the exception of some few months military training in Sandhurst in Britain, he had virtually no contact with the west.

He was unlike other Muslim leaders of the twentieth century whose only pride was their close association with western powers. Al-Qathafi could not have appeared at more appropriate time: Arabs yearned for a break in the string of humiliations at the hands of Israel and its western backers and the oppressed masses in the third world countries exulted in the self confidence and successes of the people of Libya.

Colonel Al-Qathafi represented everything that the oppressed people, particularly Muslims of the world expected in their leaders: piety, modesty, humility, simplicity, courage, charisma, wisdom and insight; qualities that do not come without deep understanding and knowledge of religion invested with profound spirituality.

Time has proved that Al-Qathafi is not only a political leader; his station is much higher. For Al-Qathafi, worldly power is not an end in itself but the means to a much higher purpose - to implement Allah's will on earth, the very purpose for which man has been created.

The revitalization of Islam as an instrument of social justice and organisation of society and a foreign policy has been a constant priority of Colonel Al-Qathafi.

His main aim has been to formulate a theory, a third way which could reconcile religion and progress- Islam and socialism- through the well known “Green Book, which has assumed a position in Libya comparable to that of the Red Book of Chairman Mao Tse Chung of China.

The only difference is that the Green Book, which set forth the Fateh Revolution's programme and objectives, is considered to derive its sources from the Qur'an, therefore, its application is universal, particularly on Muslims and their societies.

Al-Qathafi sought to distinguish Socialism from Communism. In a speech of December 12, 1970, Al-Qathafi explained: "Islam is definitely more progressive than communism. It has established the basis of economy, workers' inter-relations, affluent, self-sufficient, just and free society. Let everyone know that Islam embodied these ideas before Marx and Lenin.

Islam is certainly the eternal message, the permanent revolution, a new ideology and the mother of theories”.

The motto of the young Libyan Arab Republic was then "Liberty, Socialism, Unity." Although this was the same as Egypt's, Al-Qathafi soon introduced Islamic themes and championed the cause of Islam by enforcing such measures as ban on alcoholism and prostitution in Libya. Yet, he was also careful to distance himself from the Muslim Brotherhoods, whom he accused of clandestine activities.

In April 15, 1973 in Zouara, Al-Qathafi outlined - the new principles of the Libyan state based on the first part of the Green Book, which is a commentary on the implications of the Qur'anic injunction that human affairs be managed by consultation.

This meant direct democracy, which could be given practical, meaning through the abolishing of government and party systems, which were declared non-representative. These institutions were replaced respectively by the General People's Congress and General People’s Committees.

The ruling body, the Revolutionary Command Council was purged and later disbanded. In March 1977, Libya was renamed the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah, with the aim to give direct power to the people in conformity with the Green Book.

What was fresh about Al-Ghaddafi's formulation was the broad scope of authority he suggested for Islam. Such a formulation was bound to face immense opposition from an important segment of Libyan Muslim community, the traditional Ulama (Islamic Scholars).

In an important speech delivered on February 19, 1978, when the Prophet's birthday was celebrated at the Tripoli Mosque, Colonel Al-Qathafi negated the authority of contemporary Ulama, medieval fiqh specialists and non-Arab jurists whom he accused of introducing foreign and non-Islamic ideas into fiqh.

In another public speech, on July 3, 1978, Al-Qathafi reasserted his position in favour of using the Qur'an only, questioning the authenticity of some Hadith. He described the classical works of fiqh as no more Islamic than Roman law or the Napoleonic Code. A heated argument therefore, ensued between him and the Ulama in some parts of the Arab world.

Al-Qathafi's thought was a far greater revolution in Islamic thought and understandably and inevitably, many traditional Ulama were reluctant to move forward and fast. However, while there was opposition to his itjihad from some Ulama both inside and outside Libya, Al-Qathafi's prestige was able to override such objections.

But one of the qualities of a great leader is that he carries with him a broad spectrum of opinion, inspiring others to believe in him. More importantly, he makes them believe in themselves in order to achieve what would otherwise appear quite beyond their reach.

By putting his theory into historical context, Colonel Al-Qathafi made it relevant not only to the people of Libya but also to the global Muslim community.

Al-Qathafi's militant foreign policy and his support of liberation movements around the world, especially in Africa, has more often than not set him on collision course with several African regimes and the United States of America and its Western allies.

Nevertheless, Islam is an important element in Al-Qathafi's foreign policy. It is an instrument for the promotion of the welfares of African Muslims. This explains Libya's influence among Muslim communities in many African countries. This influence has been two fold through bilateral relations, and through Afro-Arab cooperation institutions.

Al-Qathafi's neither East nor West foreign policy as expounded in the Green Book rejects capitalism and its accompanying colonialism and imperialism and the former Marxist ideology with its atheism. Al-Qathafi has not hidden his contempt for Arab monarchies and has consistently considered them as reactionary and the props of imperialism in the Arab world.


Al-Qathafi's bellicose attitude towards regimes he considers reactionary and encouragement of anti-westernism and imperialism also led to uneasy relationship with his fellow Arab leaders and the United States and her western allies, with the US under the Reagan administration bombing Libya, ostensibly to eliminate the Libyan leader, as if bombing and destroying another is the quintessential achievement of a super power. It also made Libya a target of frequent air and sea military provocations and United Nations economic sanctions.

Al-Qathafi has transcended all boundaries and spoke as a truly Islamic leader on behalf of Muslims. He has come to represent not only the people of Libya but all Muslims, and this is recognised instinctively by Muslims around the world, who live and revere him despite all the efforts of his enemies to disparage and eliminate him.

In Al-Qathafi, the Muslim world recognizes a truly Islamic personality. He appears to have stepped from the pages of the history books which narrate the lives of the four rightly guided caliphs of Islam and other companions in glowing terms, with their piety, modesty and simplicity as well as courage and charisma.

But it would be an inaccurate reflection of reality if one were to limit Al-Qathafi's role to the sphere of politics and religion; Al-Qathafi's revolution has not left any social, economic or cultural aspect unattended since all are part of the totality of Islam.

Take the case of women; today they play a major role in Libya. University enrolment for women has gone up tremendously, some university faculties such us medicine and education have more female students than males. The reality of Libya is very different from the negative image presented by the hostile media of the western world, which assumes automatically that modestly dressed lady cannot be free to pursue her proper role in society.

Under Al-Qathafi, Libya has witnessed the development of a unified infrastructure. Communication facilities have linked the scattered tribes and towns to a central network. Major cities have evolved as Government and commercial centres. An extensive industrialization is currently going on to broaden the base of the economy and reduce dependence on oil.

The decision to move away from oil base is essential for Libya but the industrialization program has entailed sociological and cultural questions of grave importance. Since industrialization is supposed to make sophisticated technology a direct experience for Libyans there is the tendency for the restructuring of the whole society. The main challenge there has been the preservation of the religious and moral fibre of the country.

The new Libyan citizen is the product of an extensive unified education system. The unified curriculum has succeeded in fostering a deeper sense of national identity. Students have been reading the same curriculum and are thus being socialized along the same line.

This aspect of socialization process represented a radical departure from that to which their parents were exposed and can be seen as a catalyst leading to the emergence of a new national consciousness. Religious education is now the underlying base of the whole education network. There are several religious institutions and faculties of the shari’a in the universities.

The national identity that underlies the whole system, the Jamahiriyah or the state of the masses, is beginning to make its effects felt. A “Libyan approach” is developing, with a mix of religious consciousness, national identity and modern knowledge.

At 66, Colonel Al-Qathafi sees himself first, as political genius and strategist and secondly, international statesman. No doubt, Al-Qathafi possesses talents out of the ordinary. His mastery of the various factors in politics, his insight into the weakness of his opponents, his gift for simplification, his sense of timing, his willingness to take risk and sometimes controversial decisions, his display of astonishing will power have left nobody in doubt of his status as political genius.

As a strategist, Al-Qathafi is never lacking in imagination as his constant search for ways of taking his opponents and admirers by surprise shows.

When in December 2003, Colonel Al-Qathafi announced that his country was abandoning its weapons of mass Destruction program, others saw it as a capitulation to the west, and ostensibly to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein. The decision however, was a pragmatic one, designed to lead the world to abandon weapons of mass destruction programs and to expose western hypocrisy in its fights against the WMD since Israel is yet to abandon its own WMD program.

Even though the impression the global media created about Libya's return to the global arena in the wake of the decision to abandon the WMD, following the lifting of the unjust UN imposed economic sanctions, what we are witnessing daily are the massive in flocks of western diplomats and businessmen alike to Tripoli.

The traffic is in the direction of Tripoli and not the other way round. Western leaders and diplomats now scramble for photo-ops with Colonel Al-Qathafi. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair was in Tripoli in 2004, so was President Jacques Chirac of France; Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Condoleezza Rice is the latest western VIP in Libya.

To crown it all, the USA announced in May 2006 that it has removed Libya from the list of terrorist countries and resumed full diplomatic relations with Libya. Ostensibly, all these courtesies were to 'reward' Libya for peacefully renouncing weapons of mass destruction in December 2003 and “terrorism”.

But political observers know that Western leaders need Al-Qathafi more than the latter need them, because of the huge credibility crisis they suffer at home for misleading their countries into going to war in Iraq.

Relationship with Libya was expected to convince the good citizens of Britain and America that the “war on terror” is yielding positive dividends.

With the re-opening of the American embassy in Tripoli, it will not be unthinkable that before President Bush finishes his tenure he may seek for a golden handshake with Al-Qathafi.
If one may ask, is it not a great paradox of western democracies that “democratically” elected leaders feverishly fete with an erstwhile “terrorist leader” to ensure legitimacy at home?

While the pictures of visiting western leaders and diplomats have captured imagination, the unreported flock of unanimous western firms and investors continue to elude observers. While the West is warmly embracing the Libyan Leader, Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil giant company signed a business deal worth 550 million pounds for gas exploration.

Libya expects over $50 billion worth of investments between 2003 and 2008 alone. Major US oil companies as well as European firms are all scrambling for Libyan market.

Development index in Tripoli shows that the unjust sanctions imposed on Libya hit the “international community” no less than it undermined Libyan dynamic growth. Indeed, with the frenzy to have a bite of the new Libyan cake by Western governments and firms alike, it was the world that missed Libya not the other way round.

Lessons from Libya are in legion for Africa. For one, in market economies, there is price for everything including human lives!

Secondly, African leaders who blindly follow Western dictates should know that they hardly matter when the game is over. Both USA and Britain brought considerable pressures to bear on AU members to isolate Libya while UN sanctions lasted.

The question is that how many of these dependent African leaders were consulted when the same Western leaders and businessmen began to scramble for new Libya? Indeed, only Nelson Mandela then President of South Africa truly proved independent by bursting the so-called sanctions and travelled by road to Tripoli to register South African appreciation for the role of Libya in the struggle against apartheid.

Lastly, Libya has shown that the world will only accept us as what we are and NOT what we are made to look like. In spite of decades of sanctions, Libya is top on World Development Index with mass subsidised housing scheme, full literacy and mass free health scheme.
At a time when all African countries are kneeling before western industrialised nations cup in hand for tokens, Libya under revolutionary Ghaddafi has demonstrated its pride as an independent nation with a visionary leadership. Libya does not implement IMF or World Bank agenda, and neither is under pressure from any quarter to adopt 'western liberal democracy', yet it has the most developed social infrastructure and a stable polity in the continent, and it is now an investment haven.

Libya has moved from a mono-cultural oil economy to a diversified economy with an independent foreign policy.

After 38 years at the helm of affairs in Libya, Al-Qathafi has made an indelible imprint on history. Col. Mu’ammar Al-Qathafi certainly occupies a golden position in the rich annals of Libyan history, from a leading have not state into a major oil exporter and one of the richest and prosperous countries in Africa.

Al-Qathafi's legacies are certainly a significant background and impetus to this enviable position. Although his Revolution might not have achieved all of its objectives, the Fateh Revolution like the great revolutions of the past, whatever its ultimate fate, has been identified with the release of certain powerful ideas in Libya whose impact is still being felt internationally.

This simple devout and ascetic man, who is also a thinker, has forced the admiration of his enemies and friends alike by his greatness. He remains one leader who has inspired widespread adoration with his greatness and has become the hope and ideal of millions worldwide. This greatness is certainly not the result of orientalist ideas, atheistic communist/marxist theories or state capitalism. It stems from a purely Islamic background. It is a consequence of a thorough Islamic and African upbringing, which owes itself to Islam and Africa alone.
 
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