There have been commentaries having similar tone as the one posted by M. Ehwesa on Feb 13 (Does Mandela know what he's doing?) protesting, in part, Mandela's assessment of Qaddafi and the sanctions imposed on Libya. But before I delve into what I consider to be the crux of the matter, perhaps we should give Mandela the benefit of the doubt and assume that his defense of Qaddafi may have been his way of protesting the prolonged sanctions against Libya and their 'presumed' impact. I say 'presumed' because my suspicion is that the sanctions were used by the regime as a pretext for meting punishment and imposing hardships on the Libyan people. This appears to be so because there was never a land or naval embargo. Mandela must have been expressing his gratitude to Qaddafi for the support received during his struggle against apartheid in South Africa. In this regard, no sane man or woman considers showing gratitude unseemly or unworthy. Having said that, one strongly assumes that Mandela must have been past and present fully aware of the socio-politico-economic policies Qaddafi had installed and of the disastrous ramifications these policies have brought upon Libya and its people for more than thirty years. If Mandela was or is unaware of all of this, he is then undeserving to be a statesman, international or otherwise. On the other hand, if he does know, but all is swept under the rug for the sake of political expediency and/or monetary gains, he could not then be the champion of justice or the man of esteemed moral character he is projected to be, but rather a mere politician like most others.
Issuing from a peculiar and foggy mentality, as Muslims our tendency so far has been to link all of our misfortunes and degradation to the corruption and follies of our leaders, but not to our own. We portray ourselves as innocent bystanders, whose actions and behavior do not lead to inevitable consequences. We unfailingly and, more so, conveniently absolve ourselves of all responsibility and point the finger at our governments and its leaders! True, prudent leaders commonly lead their people to progress and prosperity, and likewise failed leaders lead to failure and irrelevance. However, there is an important question to be asked here, namely, where do such leaders come from? There is an American adage that says that the "government is as good as the people are." Traveling the other way and by the same token, it may be said that a government is as wicked as the people are. When Muslims were very much true to their creed they ascended to heights never believed possible and were beacons of justice, knowledge, and culture for all mankind. But when they assumed the traits of hypocrisy, they plunged into the lowest of pits. In that transformation, their previous righteous, Allah-fearing leaders were replaced by wicked ones. Justice required and do require as always that both ends of the equation be balanced! In fact, such justice is traceable to that brief, but eloquent hadeeth that was uttered more than 1400 years ago, which laid the foundation for the quality of and type of interaction expected between people and their leaders by stating that "those appointed over you will be like you!"-- the archaic translation is mine. I am not implying here that our leaders should be absolved of their tyranny, treachery, betrayal, and subversion, but rather they should be looked at primarily as a result, not a cause and that their roles be re-assessed in such a light. It may be useful to remember that Libyans had it "materially" so good in the sixties! Why had it all gone sour and were the Libyans upright citizens then?! At the time, there were Libyans who groaned and bemoaned the rule of King Idrees and the governments he appointed through the country's legislative and executive bodies, the majority of its members were elected by popular vote.
We must realize that we made ourselves irrelevant from the start when we belittled and condoned the first signs of tyranny and injustice as they befell others. When it was our turn to have a taste of the same, tyranny and injustice were compounded and it was too late. By then we have become desensitized to matters of human dignity and the plight of others, and the eventuality was that we lost our self worth and felt helpless. People who say which they do not do and do which they do not say live a confusing life at best and have been succinctly described as munafiqoon. As I am conscious that the people of Libya, Saudi Arabia, or any other Muslim country for that matter are not all deceitful or munafiqoon, we have been told long time ago that when calamities descend, they will befall the wicked as well as the righteous without distinction. This happens because people of knowledge, integrity and good moral character chose to have a back seat, perhaps fearing for their own safety and/or loss of their material gain.
For those who may read or interpret this as a note of despair or unfair assessment, the opposite is true. The efforts of all of those who carried the banner of reform in the past and present are recognized and valued. Convictions of worth do not come cheap and those reformers, who were either murdered, imprisoned, or fled, were willing to pay the price. But this does not negate the necessity of reminding ourselves that it serves no purpose to bestow the traits of heroism, steadfastness, and fortitude upon our people or to consider ourselves victimized when throughout we have allowed despotism to take hold in the first place, and when it did it was met with only little resistance. We need to have the courage to lay the blame where it belongs--ourselves, and only then can we hope to retrace our steps to see where we have gone wrong. We en mass must be mindful that we need to change our ways from the inside out and not just lay idle waiting for miracles to happen. Such an endeavor requires that we realize that for the most part it is WE who have perpetuated all the calamities that had befallen us and that it is high time we gather the will and determination to reverse our course and be true to our claim as Muslims. Otherwise, the traits of duplicity and self-deception will be our hallmark.
This commentary issues from an Islamic perspective. For those who may chose to differ, it is their prerogative to do so and I look forward to their critiques as long as their assessment is conveyed in a manner that lends respect to the view of others without resorting to calling names or affixing labels.