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A Response

Speculations were made on this site that I am the author of the pieces signed by Anonymous. These speculations are just that, sheer speculations. I would have liked to take credit for the author's true patriotic passion, sincerity, reliance on facts, erudition, clarity of purpose and the magnificent prose, but that would not be right. I must admit, however, that I agree with everything the author has said, especially his sincere effort to put enough pressure on Dr. El-Kekhia so that he will make virtue out of necessity and change his intellectual course, which, at the end, will free him from the nasty grip of the octopus. I have no doubt that Dr. El-Kekhia will be able to do that.

I will say nothing more about this subject, but I hope Dr. El-Kekhia will find the following advice helpful. Obviously, I am not a political activist and, therefore, I do not belong to any political organizations. Dr. El-Kekhia, however, is a political activist and he may want to join any one or more of the Arab or Muslim organizations in Washington D.C. that he finds congenial to his views.

Not surprisingly, the speculations were served with the usual dose of conspiracy theories, which, in this case, involved my relationship with my good friend, Abuzaid Dorda. Yes, you heard that right, my good friend, Abuzaid Dorda. I am not one of those who have friendly chats with him on the phone and go and visit him in New York while they pretend that they do not have anything to do with him. During the last two years, my relationship with Abuzaid Dorda has evolved from a relationship between two countrymen, struggling to find a common ground from which they can serve their people, to that of a personal friendship.

Abuzaid Dorda and I come from two different political cultures and, therefore, we have our disagreements. However, my experience with the man has led me to conclude that he is a true patriot and a delightful man who has a caring spirit and a true desire to help people. Obviously, perfect he is not, but no one is.

A good number of Libyans, most of whom identify themselves as part of the " opposition," whatever this vague term in Libyan political culture means, have called me to pass on their legitimate requests to Ambassador Dorda. Some wanted their passports to be renewed, others wanted to go and visit Libya and come back without any problems, while still others made legitimate requests, which I am not at liberty to reveal. I wish that these people had made the calls to Abuzaid Dorda themselves and, thus, saved my time and energy, but I guess some of them were quite shy to do so, while others did not want the word to go around that they had spoken to Dorda. It did not matter to me and it did not matter to him, as long as the rights of these people were secured. In no time did he let me down and every time I asked him to respond to a legitimate request, he delivered or at least he did his best to do so. Some of these people made sure that I would not tell others that they had made their requests to Dorda and I agreed. No one will ever know. Perhaps I should also mention that at no time did I call anyone asking him whether he needed any help from Dorda or anyone else. People always called me first, either directly or through a common friend.

All things considered, and judging on the bases of what can be done, and not what ought to be done, positive little changes have taken place. For example, the number of passports renewed in the last two years has reached more than 700 and the number of people who went and visited home for the first time in a long time has increased beyond expectation. To some, especially those who do not want to go home or think they cannot go home, this means nothing. Yet again, my interest is not in what ought to happen, but, all things considered, in what can happen. I would rather do the little things that help people and make things take a turn for the better, than curse in the wilderness and satisfy no one except my ego.

At no time did Abuzaid Dorda ask me to publish, or not to publish, anything, and while I know he would never do that, in the case that something weird happens and he asks me to publish anything, then that will be the end of our friendship. There is, of course, the amusing conspiracy theory that I am paid money to help him improve Libya's image in the United States. I have to be either God or an idiot to believe that it is possible to accomplish such a miracle. I may as well go and try to square the circle. What can I say?

So here you have it. Abuzaid Dorda, a government official, and I, an independent private citizen, are friends, who, in their different ways and, in spite of their disagreements, work together to do what they can in the pursuit of the common good for their people. I am, however, realistic and I know that my friend has his responsibilities to the state that he represents, and with which I, being a private citizen, have nothing to do. I may also add that my friendship with him gives me no special privileges and his doors are wide open for all.

I would also like to mention that last summer, when I was in Libya, Mr. Abdul Rahman Shelgum, whom I had never met before, expressed his desire to meet with me. I could not make it then, but I told him that I would be happy to meet with him at the next available opportunity. So when he came to New York this last Fall, I went there to meet with him. We had a long discussion, and since I had a minor car accident on the way to New York, Abdul Rahman did most of the talking. I liked most, but not all, of what he had to say, and I find him to be an urbane and cultured man who liked to talk about literature among other things. Obviously, I met with him as a private and independent citizen, and not as a representative of any group or organization and, therefore, the contents of our conversations will remain private. I remember, however, that I urged him to make a statement of goodwill to Libyans who live abroad that encourages dialogue and inclusion and he agreed and promised to do so. I also remember that he asked me for the telephone number of one of his old friends and roommates from his college days in Egypt. He said he just wanted to say hello, and I believed him. I had, however, to tell him that, unfortunately, I could not give him the number without his friendís permission. He was gracious and respected my trustworthiness. I then called his friend, who lives in Columbia, Missouri, and told him that his old friend and roommate, Abdul Rahman Shelgum, would like to hear his voice. I do not know whether the two gentlemen had a chance to say hello. Abdul Rahman and I both agreed to continue our conversations in the future and I intend to do so.

During the same summer, I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Muhammad Zweiy, who was my last resort to get my electronic number, which is now necessary to travel. I also find Mr. Zweiy to be pleasant and urbane. We did not talk politics, but we had a little chat about Ibrahim El-Koony, the prominent Libyan novelist, his latest works and his health. Ibrahim is not feeling well these days and may every Libyan wish him a speedy recovery. I also met with two other gentlemen, whose political views were disagreeable to me, and whose major interest was to know what Abuzaid Dorda and I were up to, as if we were up to something.

So here you have it, I am an independent private citizen and, in pursuit of the common good of my people, I have exercised my right to meet with whomever I want, wherever I want, and whenever I want. I will continue to do so. This summer I plan to go home, and I will be happy to talk with anyone who invites me to talk with them about human rights, good government, social justice and economical development, about security and prosperity. I will not be intimidated into silence or paralysis by those who have nothing better to do than sit at home and weave conspiracy theories.

I will knock on doors until they are open, I will talk to anyone who wants to talk with me about the common good of the Libyan people. I will continue to search for real ways to serve, but I will never betray the traditions of my people. I am my own man, and I will never do anything in which I do not believe. There is life and there is death, and only God can decide which of the two we may have.

Again, I have no illusions, and I know that my powers to change things are limited, but I can only work within the limits of my powers. I know that others believe that my approach is naive and will fail. Well, I would rather be naive and fail doing the helpful little things than be clever and succeed in doing nothing but curse in the wilderness. I also know that people have rights and needs which require immediate attention and I would like to do what I can to help these people attend to these needs and rights.

There is a handful of people whose minds are made up beyond evidence and reason, and no matter what others say or do, they are not going to be satisfied. They will just spin things in whichever way that suits them. This letter is not addressed to them. Again, I am not a politician. I am an academic who, in the good tradition of his profession, is interested in conflict resolution, and who takes some time to fulfill his social obligations to his community and do a few good things. Somewhere I wrote that I have devoted my life to serve those who are in need of service, and one of my favorite prayers is for God to help me become a voice for those who have no voice and an instrument for peace.

God Bless you all.

Ali Errishi


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