The brave women fighting bigotry in Libya

Once in a while, amid the destruction, kidnappings, murder and mayhem that is engulfing Libya, a brave voice emerges to give us hope that maybe there could be light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

One such voice is Magdulien Abaida, who played an important part in promoting the image of the Libyan revolution among Europeans when it first started in February 2011, only to be rewarded by being kidnapped and beaten up by Islamist thugs.

Now another has come to our attention. She is Nafissa Assed, a Libyan blogger and student on a Fulbright scholarship. Brave, articulate and passionate about Libya, she has a full grasp of the disease that is gripping the country, a disease at the root of which lie the deranged serpents who are haunting the Arab world: the Islamists.

Below are extensive excerpts from her latest blog post – if you agree with her, please tell her by posting a comment at the end of her article.

I once disagreed with the Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg when he said: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion”.

Today, Weinberg’s quote rings some sad truth into my ears. Well, at least part of it. It’s true that not all people who believe in a certain religion are affected by this tendency.  However, there are enough to make Weinberg’s quote resonate with me when it comes to Libya.

There is something inherently dangerous about many unhinged extremists in Libya who believe they know God’s mind, applying [a] coercive system that uses religion to create an “us versus them” mindset, so that “us” (the extremists/the murderers) are right and “them” (whoever disagree with their specific goals and agenda) is wrong, leaving no room for temperance or tolerance with anyone holding any opinion that opposes theirs.

Unfortunately, women are mainly the first victim [of] this enslaving politico-religious system.

Libyan women, who participated heavily to topple Gaddafi and put an end to his long years of oppression, cruelty and injustice, today are facing another type of cruelty, a political-Islamic movement (Islamism) to [deprive] them [of] the very basic rights that they… already enjoyed… throughout the previous oppressive years of Gaddafi.

Libya has brilliant women with unbeatable determination to succeed and [to] help in building Libya. However, all the greater opportunities that every Libyan woman might have are increasingly accompanied by hostility and backlash against their rights.

Today, the Libyan woman not only experience the fear of the rising crime and violence, the unlimited availability and misuse of weapons, or the conflict in power between the weak government and the illegitimate armed groups wandering the streets of Libya and killing whoever [doesn’t] please them, but they also have to deal with the endless harassment, threats, sexual assaults and now execution as well. And what’s worse is that they also have to deal with a series of ludicrous “fatwas” that impede their ability to lead an independent, private and personal life…

Change in Libya will not happen by itself. Libya needs women who dare with loud voices supported by well-planned actions. It needs progressively instructive awareness of duties and rights, responsibilities and rewards. It needs well-thought-out educational campaigns to initiate vigorous change.

The Libyan revolution that happened to end oppression in all its forms and achieve human dignity, social justice and economic development, today is taking a whole different and dangerous path, a path based on ideological manipulations… using religion to politicize people’s lives…

I do not want the Libya that many free Libyan women, including myself, fought so hard to achieve full rights to end up having a “politico-religious” system with the objective to eliminate anyone who doesn’t “hate” democracy, or prevent women from leading an independent, liberated and free-thinking way of life, or execute people with different faiths/beliefs (or none), or basically suppress anyone with different personal views when it comes to faith/religion…

“Islamism” (linking religion and politics together) is nothing more than a fascist ideology that represents detestation based on a hypocrite scheme to protect Islam, when the real purpose is to give the green light to mentally unbalanced extremists to behave outside the law and adopt violence to achieve their private and corrupt goals…

The grand mufti of Libya, Sadiq al-Ghiryani, had no right to publicly announce a fatwa stating that women teachers should cover their faces  when there are male students in the classroom. Or that women should not be allowed to travel abroad all alone, without a male relative. He has no right to [issue] any fatwa publicly about individuals’ relationship with God or use religion to guide a woman’s personal life… Sadiq al-Ghiryani does not have a direct connection with God to lead my life or force any of his religious thoughts one me based on his own way of understanding religion…

I don’t understand why women are Sheikh Al-Ghiryani’s main focus when it comes to fatwas. Are these Libya’s main’s issues now? Well, since he feels free giving fatwas about whatever he wants and use religion to intervene [in] people’s personal life, why doesn’t he come up with some useful fatwas about Libya’s really serious issues?

Where were Al-Ghiryani’s fatwas when every time “unknown” gunmen killed many innocent Libyans, bombed shrines and destroyed many of Libya’s historical mosques? Where were his fatwas when many Libyan women were raped and tortured? Why I’ve never heard any fatwa regarding the unbearable sexual harassment [and] rape of women in the streets of Libya? … And why I’ve never heard any fatwa regarding the predicament of [the] Tawergha [people] and all those displaced children, women and elders living in crumbling camps, facing the heavy rainfalls and floods that happened across Libya?

If we keep denying these facts and these major differences between politics and religion, every unhinged extremist in Libya will always find a way to distort the genuine and peaceful meaning of a religion by politicizing people’s way of life through vicious and illegitimate violence. They will keep causing havoc by bombing more shrines, more shops and cafes in Benghazi, Derna or elsewhere; attacking more women-friendly spots to frighten, bully and put pressure on women not to go out. What kind of faith or religion that promotes this size of violence? A faith that impacts extreme negativity as kidnapping, torturing, raping, killing or any other kind of oppression is simply not a faith…

Every oppressor creates his worst enemy and fear. And just like every filthy tyrant that exists in this falling world, their worst enemy and fear are the people they oppress.

For this reason, as a free Libyan, I will always rise against my oppressor and strike back until I get my full rights or die trying.

The Libyan people have a choice: to succumb to the mentally unbalanced fascists, misogynists, bigots and perverts of the Islamist trend – Salafis, Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood and others of their type – and live in ignorance, backwardness, terror and oppression, or to summon up the courage and fight for freedom, democracy, development, and a just and law-governed state.
It is only by following the examples of brave women such as Nafissa Assed and Magdulien Abaida that Libya will have any chance of a progressive and enlightened future.

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