There obviously is a link between patriotism, nationalism and pride but where do the women figure in this equation? If you are curious, bear with me and let's dissect the situation that has brought all this out on the Libyan blogs.
Anglolibyan lamented that Libyans do not feel proud about their country. He complained especially that the Libyan flag as it stands has no rallying power.
“[…]as with many things in our country, this flag was forced on the population,[…] the problem in the long run is that many Libyans have lost the sense of pride for their country, unlike most other countries in the world, we do not have a Libyan national anthem or a proper flag to make us feel proud”.
For those of you who do not know what the current Libyan flag adopted in the 70s looks like, it simply consists of one colour: bright green or what I call Islamic green.
The resulting debate ranged from love, anticipation, disregard, plain disdain and surprisingly enough acrimony. Samples of comments from various Libyan bloggers follows [source]:
‘for my generation (at least) we do identify with the “all green” and nothing cries out “Libya” to us like the “All Green” ” A.Akak.
” Green ,yellow,white ,with a crescent or a star or with out them ,with an original Libyan anthem or not …It doesn't make a difference as long as LIBYANS doesn't feel LIBYANS..and believe me,what makes us feel this way is not a flag or an anthem..It is the pride that comes with respect…[sic]” Benghazi Citizen
“i am waiting for the day that a libyan sports player or sports team wins a gold medal, and i bet with you that every libyan will stand up for the national anthem and look it his flag, and it will not make a difference how this flag will look alike, you just will feel proud, we all will feel proud[sic]” Libyan
” I think, the green rag is no more representative of Libya than the Nazi flag is of Germany. Suliman.
This discussion brought out to light a set of differences between Libyan generations, including a further classification which I have been expecting yet wishing that it would not happen. This subset, no less important than the generation gap can be summarized in whether you were living inside or outside Libya.
The next topic that recently griped the Libyan blogosphere began by a post on Flying Birds, related to a frustrated love that resulted in this comment (now deleted) from reader Music Lover who said:
“If you are in love, then the best solution is ask for her hand, Boyfriend & Girlfriend relationship they do not work in the Arab world. Arab women they do not want bullshit talk, either marriage or get lost.”
Blogger UT (formerly Trabilisia, found it inflammatory enough to warrant a retaliatory post called “Arab women vs western” where she says :
” many men in general classify us, Arab women, as no easy conquest which is nice in a way but shows that western ladies are preferable for an easy ride and wont ask for marriage which I believe is outrageous ,untrue and really gets me mad.[sic]”.
This resulted in a barrage of comments again about Libyan women, Arab women, foreign women, sexuality, honour, pride, chauvinism, feminism and freedom. It is a pity that UT has disabled the comment section just while I was writing this post, as the comments are an invaluable part of the debate and relevant to the idea hinted at above between those Libyans living inside vs those living outside Libya. I would like to urge UT to release the comments again and hope that this post will encourage her to do so.
Khalid Jorni's post a day later seemed to pour ‘fuel’ as we say over a dying fire. But I say ‘seemed’ because that was not the intention I think. However, he brought up to light a thorny topic in Libya : the ‘ajnabia’ wife.
Ajnabia in Arabic means a foreign woman but in Libya and most Arab countries it has gained an additional subtle connotation namely ‘Western woman’ and more specifically, American, British and on a smaller scale northern European. The rest of Europe does not count much. The Arab wife is just that, Arab or designated by her country of origin and so are Asian women.
Khalid Jorni picked up on a recurrent situation which because of the small population of Libya (5.5 million) and the large number of such cases has become noticeable: Libyan men divorced from their foreign wives leaving everything they built over a decade or more, including their children, and returning to Libya to marry a ‘100%’ Libyan woman.
“as we all know after a period of time love has to fade out, and when it does, the Libyan guy would never think of a separation, he believes that he is the only salvation of his kids in a Godless land, he always wanted them to have the good part of the two worlds, so even if he hates his wife's guts, he would rather die than leaving her alone with his kids, specially if they were females..[…] While the Ajnabiyia, when love disappears, starts to link everything her husband does with his Libyan background, even if the guy was so open-minded and tolerant all his deeds would be considered retrograde and somehow related to the place he comes from.”
His advice is :” you got to choose either to live in Libya with a non-Libyan wife, or to stay abroad with a Libyan wife, but to live abroad with a non-Libyan wife, that is the definition of catastrophe”. Yet he concludes his post with this appeal to expatriate Libyans “Why don’t they come back to Libya, sacrifice some advantages and give up their high life style in order to make a valid contribution to the evolution of their country[..]”.
58 comments later and the war is still raging on! Some answers are surprising as they come from readers and bloggers who have themselves said they have an ajnabia mother or grandmother or others who have an Arab mother. We even heard from foreign female bloggers, but the only voice we have not heard is that of children with non ajnabia /non Arab /non Libyan mother. A Libyan with an Indian mother for example.
The ulcer has exploded bringing out a torrent of pus and long pent up feelings most of them off topic: the race card, sexual frustration, Islam, stereotypes, politics, pride, nationalism and treason. The genie was officially out of the bottle!
” Unfortunately many Libyans living in Libya think that many of us live in the west because of a better life style and that we do not participate in the building of our country […]from most of these comments I can see the Libyan mentality has not changed much, people there still look down on people that have non Libyan mothers” Anglolibyan.
Blogger Ph's reply runs like a post – the most important part which in my opinion illustrates the undercurrent between the three posts is this excerpt :
“there is a sick cowardly segment of our society that always runs away from Libya when it needs them the most, during times of hardship, like after the Italian invasion, and after the revolution taking the money and knowledge they gained from the country they lived in and its people. They , then return after the hardship ends like after the Italian occupation and after the recent Lifting of the sanctions with their education and money, some of which was stolen from Libya and some of which was paid for by the current Libyan government and then they claim to be better than they average Libyan, and look down on them as if they aren't Libyan themselves and as if they are better simply because they studied abroad or learnt English, forgetting of course that whatever education they earned they earned from the money that was spent on them by the Libyan government and forgetting that the only reason they are in a better state is because they didn't stand by their country when it needed them the most and that makes them think, ignorantly may I add, that their treachery makes them better people !
Not only that; but after returning to Libya this sick segment isn't satisfied with their country not holding them accountable for their actions; but they actually want them to greet them with flowers and treat them like kings simply because they know English ! Then they start whining and crying when they aren't treated as the aristocrats they think they are claiming that the Libyans are racist and backward thinking […] Of course a prominent feature among this cowardly segment is the support of American values forgetting that the American value that made America the country it is today is their loyalty to their country and their ability to make a distinction between their country, its people and those who rule it. Instead of blaming a whole population for the ill actions of a few; but I guess its true those who live abroad usually only pick up on the bad values they see and rarely pick up something good.”
There is a fine thread that runs through these seemingly unrelated posts. It's not the first time Libyan bloggers get into a hard argument but it's the first time I see such bitterness.
So I ask are Libyan men and women patriotic? Are they proud of Libya? What is the essence of being Libyan? Does a western female spouse negatively affect a relationship because she will pass her culture to the half Libyan children and in a post 9/11 world there is a threat that this might even endanger the Libyan/Muslim composition of the child? Do Libyans react to this issue differently depending on where they live? Is the foreign woman simply seen as pretty easy catch, while the Libyan woman is hard to get?
Is there a gap betweenLibyans who remained in Libya, expatriate Libyans and self –exiled Libyans. What constitutes treason?
So many questions lying below the surface, waiting for the opportunity to be unleashed on an unsuspecting audience… Libyans will one day have to resolve these hot issues, but hopefully not with the help of foreign intervention.
With any luck the fact that we are Libyans will prevail to heal any rift.