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In Defense of Representative Democracy (8)

On Tolerance and Respect:

The recent significant debate on this page has cast in sharp relief the central values for which all of us, Libyans, must stand. Prominent among them are mutual respect and tolerance.

In order to become deservedly democratic, we need to learn how to welcome into our community people who have strong beliefs and opinions about many issues. Each of us must be committed to the fundamental principle that while we may and will vigorously debate differing ideas, we will with equal determination respect each other as individuals. Acts of unthinking rejection, hate and prejudice serve only to divide, not enlighten. Our biggest challenge, both inside and outside Libya, is to welcome the new and unfamiliar with curiosity, not instinctive rejection. What we should reject are acts whose sole purpose is to promote violence, hatred, anger and division.

Far too often acts of verbal or physical aggression between people who have not taken the time to understand each other are falsely attributed to ideological, religious or other differences. During this sacred month, this site will be the scene of vigorous debate and discussion, as it should be. The Internet is not intended to be intellectually monolithic. Rather, it is increasingly becoming open marketplaces of ideas, aggregates of intellectual viewpoints bound together by a deep commitment to mutual tolerance and respect. Truth is revealed through intellectual debate, not personal attack. It is discovered, not imposed. Ideas and their authors should be proud to stand in the light, not seek the anonymity of the darkness.

Unfortunately, I've seen how our community can fall short of these ideals. I have experienced situations in which the open expression of ideas has been jeopardized by intolerance whether expressed overtly in language or more subtly in the way that Libyans treat each other. I must repeat clearly my strong conviction that acts and expressions of hatred, prejudice and intolerance are intellectually and ethically repugnant. They are contrary to the values that Libyans, everywhere, should hold most dear. They are contrary to the core values of the great religions and what should be the most fundamental of human values. They are insidiously corrosive to our community, and we cannot afford to tolerate them.

Far more unites us as fragile humans than divides us. I dare to challenge everyone to learn from our differences and in doing so unite in the search for understanding, not divide along faults of ignorance. We must strive to make respect and tolerance the mortar that binds together the mosaic of what we proudly call Libya. They cannot be decreed, only inspired. Our community is a composite of individuals, and it is up to each of us to act in such a way that our community as a whole is an honorable one. This requires a commitment from everyone of us.

The larger world is heavy with the foul fruits of ignorance, mistrust and hatred. Our Libya should be better. Becoming so is ultimately what we, collectively, do make out of it.

Ramadan Mubarak!

To be continued

Abdelrahim Saleh


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