From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Aug 28 2011 - 08:04:30 EDT
Libya, Western Interests and the Politics of Hypocrisy
Western media outlets celebrate Libyan fighters as heroes - despite their
cries of 'Allahu Akbar'. But if, at a later date, NATO believes that its
interests are not being served by backing the Libyan people, it will turn on
them as quickly as they turned on Gathafi, argues Abdul Wahid.
Middle East Online
The liberation of Libya from Gathafi illustrates how Western interests
define the labels of freedom fighter or terrorist amongst allies and
Today, the brave and deeply Islamic people of Libya, who have brought down
the tyrant and one-time western ally Muammar Gathafi, are rightly lauded as
heroes. NATO exploited the fact that no neighbouring Muslim state was
willing to send an army to help the people - switching from its position
backing the Gathafi regime as an ally in the 'War on Terror' to backing his
opponents. But even that cannot detract from the bravery of those who rose
up against his rule, defended themselves against his onslaught, and then
proceeded to sweep him from power.
Even western media outlets like the BBC, CNN and Sky News celebrate these
fighters as heroes - despite their 'takbirs' [cries of 'Allahu Akbar'
meaning 'God is the Greatest'], though they are usually portrayed as having
a patriotic motivation as opposed to an Islamic one.
But the position of these prominent media outlets, like those of their
governments, is rank hypocrisy. This hypocrisy is not limited to the fact
that the Gathafi family were friends turned enemies; nor because they were
silent when Blair hugged him close [literally, not metaphorically] and Brown
sent him Christmas cards; nor simply because they deal happily with some of
the same criminals who remained by Gathafi until the eleventh hour. Any one
of these are reason enough on their own.
But the hypocrisy that in question relates to how resistance in Libya has
been portrayed as compared to resistance in Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq and
Afghanistan; how some fighters are portrayed as "terrorists" or "insurgents"
and others referred to as "resistance" or, in the case of Libya, "rebels".
The labelled used by media organisations are the product of much editorial
discussion, and reflect the political interests they represent.
The media has celebrated these Muslim Libyan fighters in a way we have not
seen for a long time, although initially there were many questions as to the
political identity of the 'rebels' . British citizens of Libyan origin have
been interviewed and [rightly] lauded for their bravery and sacrifice -
leaving the comfort of their lives in the UK to fight for what they believed
Yet only a few years ago, people from the UK who went to help resistance to
oppression in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq or Afghanistan were
labelled as 'terrorists', arrested or kidnapped, in some cases tortured and
then imprisoned. Some of these people ended up in Guantanamo Bay, despite
the fact that they had not even travelled specifically in order to fight -
rather they were either living in or visiting those locations, and saw
first-hand the injustice and violence meted out on the locals, and so became
involved. Others, who even considered going, might have been prosecuted for
acts preparatory to terrorism. Anyone offering moral supporting to such
resistance might even have been accused of 'glorifying terrorism'.
Recently, the BBC revealed that around 4000 people who, based on their
conscience and convictions, travelled to fight against Franco in the Spanish
Civil War. For the most part they had no direct relationship to the
conflict. They simply wanted to support those who wished to overthrow a
fascist tyrant. The media also chooses to ignore British citizens joining
the Israeli 'Defence' Force that commits atrocities abroad.
Today, the idea that someone could do the same, based on Islamic convictions
is an anathema to the western media. Indeed, they will even single Muslims
out for prosecution under anti-terrorism laws, though once upon a time the
mujahideen fighting against the Soviet Union were lauded as heroes.
All of this merely proves something well known - the politics of 'terrorism'
is that of hypocrisy. One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist,
depending on their interests. It's not saying something new, just flagging
the obvious based on current events.
Today, the politics of 'terrorism', laws relating to 'terrorism' and media
coverage on 'terrorism' is all based exclusively on the political agenda and
interests of the country concerned: whether the country is Britain, the
United States and France or from China, Russia and other - who copy the west
in using the language of terrorism to criticise their enemies.
By the same logic, the people of Libya, and those who wish well for them,
should be under no illusions that NATO's backing, and continuing involvement
is anything to do with high principle, or helping the people. It is about
interests. If, at a later date, NATO believes that those interests are not
being served by backing the Libyan people, they will turn on them as quickly
as they turned on Gathafi.
Given that former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston once said "We have
no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are
eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow" it
might be worth the people of Libya taking some quick lessons in British
history before they find themselves victims of yet another hypocritical
Abdul Wahid writes and speaks on political and social issues affecting
Muslims in the UK, Europe and across the world. Though a doctor by
profession, he is a regular contributor at the online political affairs
site, New Civilisation (www.newcivilisation.com). He has been published in
The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign
Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter
@abdulwahidht or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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