Touring Libyan Blogs: Is the Arabic Language Dead?

Usually Libyan bloggers talk about varied and different topics – whether they are mundane or not. A recent supposedly anodyne post by Lebeeya in in which she was describing how her colleagues loved her chocolate cookies and congratulated her by touching wood to ward off the ‘evil eye’ sparked a debate about the so called ‘death’ of the Arabic language.

It all started when Lebeeya said: ” SAY ” Mashallah” people…. STOP saying “TOUCH WOOD”, say mashallah.” (The Arabic phrase ma sha`a allah indicates acceptance of what God has ordained in terms of good or ill fortune that may befall a believer). This prompted blogger Suliman to comment that :

“I think your coworker used “Knock on wood” instead of “Mashallah” because of the prevalence of American pop culture throughout the world, including Islamic countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc. My observation is that young people like yourself do not find what they need in the dead tongues of Arabic, Berber or Swahili. Those languages are rooted in cultures that do not promote individuality and self expression, and as a result, it is not uncommon that young bloggers, even in Arabic countries, freely express themselves in English. It works better for them, as it does here for you.”

Mani took the initiative to further elaborate on his own blog and defend the “life” of Arabic and other languages.

“Free choice is all about the freedom of the individual to choose.. by being free, we mean that the person uses their own head to think, observe, reason their way through life and choose a course of action accordingly..”

Here again the comment section became pretty lively.

The ball rolled and was picked up on Ghazi's blog Imtidad .

“Recently I've been preparing a study on Libyan Blogs on the Internet. Until now I managed to count 76 blogs written by either Libyans in or outside Libya, or expatriates living in Libya and writing about it, and one of the main results is that the majority of blogs use English only or in conjunction with Arabic or Libyan dialect as the main language to write in their blogs. 55 blogs write in English only, 11 blogs use both English and Arabic, and only 10 blogs use Arabic only.
My question to bloggers is:
From your opinion why are you using English or Arabic Language only?
And why the majority of Libyan blogs use English Language?”

The debate at times became very heated and bitter by detractors who were out to prove that Arabic is the language of terrorism and others who assert the validity of this language as that of the Quran. If you have the courage I recommend you wade through all the comments as it makes for an interesting read guaranteed to make you think more deeply about your language.

What is the conclusion then? Has globalization succeeded in killing Arabic? Is it the language of terrorism as opposed to English being synonymous with freedom?


  • PH

    I like the way you chronicled the events :), but you didn’t tell us what you think :P.

  • […] Usually Libyan bloggers talk about varied and different topics – whether they are mundane or not.Touring Libyan Blogs: Is the Arabic Language Dead? […]

  • Suliman

    Greetings, Ms. Mohamed.

    I’m the Suliman you quoted in your piece, and I have a correction to your account of the debate that you characterized as becoming “bitter by detractors who were out to prove that Arabic is the language of terrorism and others…”

    Your description is inaccurately based on a fragment taken (way) out of context. Unless I missed something you did not cite, then you are referring to my argument against the slogan that “Arabic is the language of Quran,” which is used to insinuate that Arabic enjoys some sort of God-Chosen status.

    The context that you neglected to present, which I had actually presented in two languages, is (1) that Arabic has been in use before, during and after the publication of Quran, and therefore, (2) in addition to being the language of Quran, Arabic was also the language of what’s known in Islam as the “Age of Ignorance,” the language of science at one time, the language of all oppressors of Arabic speakers, and the language of ransom notes and explosive belt instructions. Clearly, my argument was to present the wide spectrum of utility of Arabic, contrary to the view of pinning down the language to a single defining use.

    I don’t doubt that those who can read your references will find the full story is quite different from what is presented here. But I hope you publish my comment for those readers who might be otherwise misled by your account. I would also be glad to discuss this further with you, publicly or privately, if you choose.

  • Fozia

    Greetings Mr Suliman,

    Thank you for your participation. The links are available as you have mentioned for all those wishing to find the original topic. This is merely a summary.

  • rima

    The Arabic language in lybia was not dead, because the phrase ” TOUCH WOOD” is an arabian phrase. we use it when somthing is very amazing and we afraid to lose it. In addition to that, we can use the phrase” mashaallah” so we can not say that the Arabic language is dead. What I don’t like is when people switch between Arabic and another language in the same conversation as happens in lebanon. I feel they are just showing they know a foreign language. However, when they use French and Arabic in Tunis and Algeria, there is a historical reason for this. The French occupied the area, French was the dominant language and Arabic as a language died.

  • Hi all just a reply to rimas comment, i personaly dnt like it wen ppl switch from one arabic accent to the other, but to critsie ppl who switch between arabic and english, well i do that, but not cos i want to show ppl i know 2 languages but because i was born in the uk and my parents r both libyan, (therefore i am a proudddd libya:D) anyways i speak swtich between the both not cos i want to but merly the fact that sometimes i do not know the arabic word but i know it in english therefore in the hope that the other person will get wat im sayin i try to explain in english arabic or arabic english. i wish that one day i will be fluent in arabic,inshallah soon. but i know for sure inside myself that i do now switch between the 2 for attention, i hate speakin englihs in libya and i hate libyan ppl born and raised and never left libya, tryin to show of with the fact they know a few words of english, i think that arabic is the most amazing languages with so much depth in the history of it.
    Lust i do not think that arabic is dead but very much alive and always wil be alive as long as muslim r alive and still reading the Quran or in matter of fact if any arab country is not totally taken over by the west and its ways.

    p.s this is a great post ;)

  • I am Bangladeshi.After few days I will go Libya for work.But I don’t know Arabic laungage.I know Korean and English laungage.How cna I learn Libyan laungage. Please help me any person.I am wating for this.

    Md.Nayamat khan

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.