The U.S. government is struggling to polish its image among Muslims by correcting diplomatic mistakes it has made since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of these efforts, however, are based on untested theories, an approach that potentially will keep the United States prone to failure in the region.
After the death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi, in a war that lasted more than six months, many challenges remain for the world’s newest democracy. One of the most serious and clearly tangible challenges is the proliferation of heavy and light weapons in the hands of rogue militias. Fortunately, the government has begun a sweeping crackdown on these groups.
But there is an intangible challenge that must be addressed if Libya is to permanently benefit from Gaddafi’s demise. While American officials, NGOs and activists discussed and proposed various ideas and plans for Libya’s future, they, along with the rest of the world, remain profoundly ignorant of Libyan culture, history and politics.
So convinced that Libyans would choose Islamists in the nation’s first free elections in more than a generation, foreigners – especially Americans – were shocked when the people elected Liberal Party candidates. They had allowed the easy stereotypes – women wearing headscarves and bearded men going to mosques to pray and chant religious songs – to deceive them.
They failed to understand that while the overwhelming majority of Libyans are devout, they now refuse to bring religion into the new politics and enlightened idea of government emerging from the revolution.
Furthermore, after more than 40 years of ignorance, injustice and poverty, the democratically elected government does not want citizens to continue focusing on the separation of males and females and halal and Haram. Many of the new leaders fully understand the significance of religion, and they understand everyone’s contribution to the revolution. Therefore, they are seeking practical solutions to important issues such as healthcare, education, building construction and establishing a modern infrastructure for the greater good.
As we move forward, I think the American administration is mistaken if it believes that Al-Qaeda is a well-organized ideological and religious entity. It is not. It is, in fact, a gelatinous mix of radicals who use the name as a tool to terrorize freedom seekers. When this reality is understood, Libyans and their allies can be more effective in eradicating these groups.
Finally, the U.S. flag is flying in many parts of Libya, because we want to express our gratitude to America for helping us destroy Gaddafi’s reign of terror and repression, thus giving us access to democracy and stability.
I must caution, however, that the United States, along with other nations that aided the revolution, now must earnestly seek a deeper understanding of the Libyan people and our long-term aspirations.
special thanks to my friend Mr. Bill Maxwell who always encouraged me and made the necessary correction of the article!
Bill Maxwell: Opinion Columnist