By: Mansour Abushnaf*
Holding his shroud in his hands, the murderer walks among the
crowd, the family of the victim to his right, his parents, and relatives to his left, he moves in shame, supported by pious old men until he reaches the father of the victim. He kneels down before the victim’s family putting his life in their hands with the shroud in his hands, crying he admits his crimes as he begs for forgiveness.
Slow and tense moments pass by as he waits for the family to make a decision, the decision to grant forgiveness usually takes time due to the magnitude of the moment. He says, “I forgive and accept reconciliation,” as soon as he speaks those words everyone starts to cheer, women and men alike, the crowds in tears start to hug one another.
This ritual in addition to many other rituals and traditions have been part of Libya’s customs, and have been practiced if needed; they are respected and appreciated for they bring the community together and protect it from divisions and troubles.
Libyans have developed through generations different reconciliation procedures and applied them for peace to continue. They kept pulling through in the face of adversity and hardship, severe living conditions, scarce resources, drought, thirst and hunger were regularly faced, they weren’t saints or demons, they were as they are now, regular human beings.
Reconciliations have been a regular daily occurrence in Libya as have disputes, no day passes without Libyans disputing for whatever reason, either as individuals, groups or cities, they have fought to the extent where they killed each other. However, the always end up reconciling and rebuilding what was ruined, as life eventually continues.
Regardless of what is said about this revenge culture and how it has spread in Libya, it has been fading out since the foundation of Libya in the 1950’s, when families had started to resort to the police and the judicial system to the degree where such traditions have vanished apart for a few incidents here and there.
On the contrary to retaliations, reconciliations are growing more and more in communities, and Libyans alongside civil servants (as we now call them) are practicing this tradition and bringing families, tribes and cities together. These social efforts have been working side by side with the law; courts took into consideration the outcomes of such efforts, for the philosophy behind retribution is to maintain social stability and not merely punishing the guilty.
Funds have been set up for families, tribes and cities to pay for “blood money” and to compensate the families of the victims, a necessity for reconciliation as it shows goodwill. Religious men and thinkers have been playing a vital role in settlements regardless of what tribe or city they are assisting.
Imams and Sufi sects have been playing this role since the Turk era, standing in between disputants forcing them to reconcile; Sufis used to calm down fighting parties by holding up a white flag, waving it between them as a separation instrument. They had an important moral influence which helped force peace upon the community. This often occurred in the 1960s in rural areas generally before police intervention.
Zliten and the grandchildren of Abdul-Salam Al-Asmar and his followers could have stopped the fight in the western regions of Libya, the Senussi family could have intervened and sought to resolve the differences between tribes and families in the eastern region. Libyans have broken down all reconciliation mechanism following “February”, and considered them to be “backwards” so to speak and unable to solve the “new” problems that Libyans face. The media has been advocating against such traditions without offering new resolutions in return.
As it stands, Libyans are unable to revive this tradition, as “old” measures are deemed unwelcome, leaving the shroud in the hands of the murderer scene undesired and unable to spread peace within the community.
*A Libyan Intellectual and Writer
Translated By LIBYAPROSPECT