Libya Rocks

Armed group attacks Libyan parliament

Government insists it is in control after attack on parliament by forces loyal to a renegade general. (Al Jizz)

Hugh Fitzgerald:

In Tripoli, a general who defected from Qaddafy’s army, fed up with the chaos, and with the “islamists,” fires on,in an attempt to shut down,  the Libyan Parliament.

Libya’s government has insisted it is still in control of the worsening security situation, even as an al-Qaeda-inspired group vowed to fight troops loyal to a renegade general behind an attack on the country’s parliament.

And those who take Islam more deeply to heart, and are dead set on imposing as much of the Sharia as they can, and to follow more closely the Path of Allah, those whom the Western media call — inaccurately and unhelpfully — “Islamists,” are fighting back, and with all of Qaddafy’s armories emptied and the weaponry everywhere (even as far as Boko Haram, and the Sinai), this fight has no end in sight.

Tunisia, Libya’s western neighbor, may possibly maintain its quasi-democracy, without the need for an enlightened and ruthless (ruthless because he is enlightened, and knows what he’s dealing with when he’s dealing with a Muslim population) despot, akin to Ataturk. For the secret of Tunisia’s possible success, which is never discussed, that which distinguishes it from all other countries with an Arab-spring in their step,  is the predominance of the French language, and French culture, among the Tunisian elite, and the access to a wider, saner, more advanced non-Muslim world — in this case, France. It’s happened before, and even within Europe itself. In backward Russia,  Peter the Great famously wanted to make of premeditated Petersburg a window, or more exactly a windowlet, avasisdas to Europe (“v Evropu prorubit’ okno“)– by which the light of the Continent  could shine in on the tenebrous state he ruled. He invited in Dutch shipbuilders, German astronomers and mathematicians, and the French language, the language of the pre- and full-fledged Enlightenment, came to the be second and sometimes the first language of Russia’s rulers and their courtiers. It had its effect.

In Tunisia, that window onto Europe has been supplied by the French language; it’s the greatest political achievement, nowadays, though the French themselves don’t dare to recognize, much less congratulate themselves, on it, of La Francophonie.

Libya’s Western neighbor, Egypt, has a much smaller enlightened class, including many Copts who have an interest in taming Islam’s truest adherents. It is also the Muslim country in the Middle East that, with Iran, has the most powerful sense of itself as a land with a pre-Islamic history. This history is for many a source of pride, not to be dismissed as part of the Jahiliyya, the pre-Islamic period of ignorance. The pyramids are the undeniable physical evidence of that pre-Islamic history, just as Persepolis and other places in Iran represent, for Iranians, that pre-Islamic civilization that existed before the Arabs brought “the gift of Islam” and all its woes. Taha Husain, back in the 1920s, wrote about “Pharaonism” — the idea that enlightened Egyptians could focus on Egypt alone, use that sense of Egyptian identity to overcome  the tug of  fanatical Islam — and perhaps it is that Pharaonism that Al-Sisi, who sees himself as an Egyptian patriot first, will be able to encourage or impose during his semi-enlightened despotism. But Egyptians have no unique well of enlightenment, as Tunisians do in the French language.

And Libya, with its murderous tribal and local loyalties (the city-based groups from Zindan, from Tripoli, from Misrata, from Benghazi), its primitive history, its sea of arms that creates a world of troubles, has neither the French of Tunisia, nor a keen sense, despite some Roman ruins, of a pre-Islamic civilization of which to be proud, as in Egypt.

So in Tunisia there is likely to be one Not-For-Long Parliament, followed by another, and another, until some despot in uniform takes ruthless charge. It may be happening right now.