By Souad Sbai
Even after Muammar Gaddafi’s departure, there remains a certain bitterness accompanied by a bit of anger. The feeling is that of having suffered a humiliation. As an Arab woman, coming from the Maghreb, I was accustomed to Mr. Gaddafi’s folkloric scenes but it was another context whose actors were all Muslims and/or Africans. And we know very well what are his unilateral projects for the conquest of the African continent. There are shadows on which light should be thrown, because externalizations such as those we are forced to witness, on which Gaddafi hoped that Islam should become the religion throughout Europe, have the snobbish taste of a serious act of arrogance and ignorance towards Italy and the West and we do not want to see them again.
Economic agreements and friendship treaties between Italy and Libya are welcome, as has always happened with other Arab-Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan and Morocco. Italy must consider that it has done a good job in being able to reach a strategic agreement of great economic importance that, beyond the compensation due to the former colony, opens the doors of investment to Italian companies and large industrial and financial groups with the possibility of reaching future high-level partnerships. An aspect to which the press has given great importance; it appeared for example both in Il Foglio and in of Mario Sechi’s newspaper, Il Tempo. The Italian government has the great merit of having completed it; There is no doubt about this.
In an interview published on Avvenire, Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit with Arab origins and an internationally recognized Islamologist, warned about these statements, inviting us to take them seriously. Beyond the data and demographic forecasts, it is necessary to consider the symbolic importance and the media value of the statements on the alleged Islamic future of Europe made by the Libyan leader that launched a real challenge to the heart of Christianity. Samir is right to ask himself and ask: “What kind of Europe do we want? Does it have a value and influence only economic?”
The hypothesis of re-Islamizing the old continent is not new since it dates back to the 30s and represents a design made by extremists who, since then, have always found the way or the support to move forward. But those who know the Quran correctly also know that authentic Islam respects religions and their messengers: I advise Gaddafi to read verse 285 of the last Surah of the Cow. Those who are not able to preach respect and respect other religions cannot be a good Muslim.
This is what Gaddafi should have explained to the Italian girls instead of trying to train them, staging a circus in which he was the only protagonist. Is it possible to accept the fact of receiving teachings from an unscrupulous man, as he shown to be in his 40 years of iron fist? I would advise him to implement a conversion – himself – towards democracy.
The statements made certainly do not help Muslims living abroad, especially the moderates Muslims who for years have been working in favor of interreligious dialogue risking not only being seen with hostility, but also becoming the prey of erroneous and incorrect interpretations of Islamic doctrine, falling into the grip of hatred, confusion and dangerous disputes that can lead to real conflicts. We should also ask what would have happened and what the reactions would have been if a Western head of State on an institutional visit to an Arab-Muslim country, or any other non-Muslim West, make contrary statements and speculations. The answer is obvious.
Listening to a dictator – who uses oil and gas as blackmail weapons on the table of international politics – giving lessons of “Islamic” protocol in Rome is too much. The glass is full. Libya is a country in the grip of a totalitarian regime, devoid of parliamentary bodies, subject to the whims of a man and his friends, never legitimized by the popular vote. A suffocated country where women and men live in a horrible open-air prison, where there is no kind of freedom. During my trip to Libya, I tried in vain to get in touch with the women’s associations. I realized with great regret that civil society was not invisible but sadly non-existent, deprived of their role as social interlocutor and forced to remain silent, a place where there is a total disregard for human rights.
By listening to the statements made on women condition in Libya, according to which they would be freer there than in the West, one does not know whether to laugh or cry. The truth is that Libyan women are not free: the State has no domestic protection law and has inadequate laws against sexual violence. The government’s position on violence against women continues to be a position of denial that leaves victims unprotected and without solutions. The government pursues only the most violent cases of rape and judges can propose marriage between the rapist and the victim as a “social remedy” to the crime. Victims risk being punished for adultery or fornication if they try to aggravate the accusation. The government retains dozens of victims in places of “social rehabilitation”. Many women are denied the right to oppose retention. Just read the 2009 Human Rights Watch report.
So, economics is one thing and cultural issues are another. As someone has written, “underestimating the cultural dimension is like losing the way to history, to memory.” This is what Europe has done, until today, with the ranks of intellectuals who have opposed introducing into the text of the European Constitution, the sacrosanct reference to their Christian roots, closing their eyes to what has been the humus of its cultural foundations. It is necessary to carry out a deep examination of conscience, an act of “mea culpa” for having deliberately denied the historic-cultural path of a continent based on Christian culture and impregnated by it. Europe must take full responsibility!
It is necessary to reflect on Turkey’s entry into the EU and its repercussions. It is a country whose leader has long tried to break down the secular foundations erected by Kemal Ataturk, who flirts more and more visibly with the shameful alliances with Ahmadinejad’s Iran, that still has to provide adequate answers to the conditions established for its entry into Europe, that has always refused to admit responsibility for the Armenian genocide and that persists in not wanting to recognize the sovereignty of Cyprus, a member State of the EU. A country whose doors are opening up more and more every day to a certain extremism.
Italy and Europe have suffered blatant blackmail: 5 billion euros a year so that the Old Continent does not find itself as black as Africa. Gaddafi has even asked the Italian government to be the spokesman for his request in Brussels, and in fact treating his neo-allies as his subjects. The colonel would like to extend his sphere of influence throughout Africa, as he has been trying to do for years, without success. They cannot be allowed to become his Lion. Instead, it is necessary to act in situ, helping the peoples of the Continent through governmental agreements, through cooperation, revitalizing civil society as Spain and France do with Morocco, Tunisia and other countries, to ensure that African men and women no longer need to leave their land. The “Lion King”, who has proclaimed himself “leader of the Arab leaders, king of the kings of Africa and imam of the Muslims”, has to get over it.