Monday , October 23 2017

Forgiveness is Strength

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor UAE Businessman
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
UAE Businessman

“THE weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong,” wrote one of the 20th century’s wisest men, Mahatma Gandhi. The British ruled his country with an iron hand and stripped it of resources for almost 90 years, but he eschewed revenge for reconciliation – as did Nelson Mandela who guided a divided people towards a peaceful tomorrow.

I believe the Arab World should take a leaf out their book. During a troubled era when our enemies are so numerous it is hard to keep track of them, we should work to shore up our defences, rather than be wrapped-up in exacting revenge on the disgraced former mighty who have fallen, such as Muammar Gaddafi’s surviving sons. We should be better than that. There is nothing purer than mercy. Kicking someone when they are down stains our Arab dignity.

Whereas I always thought Gaddafi was slightly unhinged, I thought his end was shameful in its sheer bestiality. He made many grave mistakes but he kept Libya united, terrorist-free and his people never went without. His family is now scattered. They have lost everything. They can harm no one and should be left alone to live their lives in anonymity.

As though the Lebanese have nothing to worry about, they have gone after Gaddafi’s 40-year-old son Hannibal. They are being attacked by DAESH. Hezbollah is fighting alongside the regime in Syria. They cannot manage to produce a president after eighteenmonths of negotiations. Their economy is in freefall. Yet they prioritised the abduction of Hannibal Gaddafi from Syria to be arrested in connection with the disappearance of the Lebanese Shiite cleric Musa al-Sadr, who failed to return from Libya in 1978 when Hannibal was just two-years old! Did he slaughter him with his teddy bear I wonder! This is a case of the sins of the father being the sins of the son.

Musa al-Sadr, born in 1928 in Iran, is long gone. What do they hope to achieve with this, other than revenge on someone who had nothing to do with his disappearance? According to Lebanese television channel MTV, Hannibal Gaddafi, who was anxious to reunite with his Lebanese wife, was tricked into meeting with people he was told could help him.

Instead, he was kidnapped, interrogated and beaten by gunmen believed to be members of the Amal Movement allied to Hezbollah and headed by the Parliamentary Speaker Nabi Berri. If anyone knows what happened to al-Sadr, it is Berri himself. And if he is so interested in ‘justice’ why does he not hand over the four members of Hezbollah indicted by Hariri Tribunal for their involvement in the assassination of one of Lebanon’s greatest sons, Rafiq Hariri? If the government cares anything about its own credibility, it should wrest Gaddafi, who is not on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list, from Berri’s grasp.

His only ‘crime’ as far as I can tell from newspaper reports is that he was “a playboy”. In that case, the jails in Lebanon should be overflowing. I would urge the Prime Minister Tammam Salam to show the world that Lebanon is not entirely run by armed militias in the pocket of Tehran by releasing him forthwith. Libya’s judiciary, operating under the auspices of the Islamist-dominated, non internationally- recognised government in Tripoli, is being similarly vengeful.

Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, is on trial for murder and oppression. In August, a video emerged showing him being hit in the face and on the soles of his feet. Other inmates can be heard screaming in pain in the background. A third son, Saifal-Islam, whose fingers were chopped off by the militia that captured him, has been sentenced to death by firing squad for crimes committed in the course of the revolution during which three of the former leader’s others sons were killed.

It seems Gaddafi’s heirs are being systematically exterminated for defending their own father from militias and NATO’s Special Forces, which by all accounts were under orders to kill him on sight. Moreover, while I understand that many of the pre-‘Arab Spring’ autocrats deserved to be toppled, in retrospect, those who warned that they would be replaced by jihadist extremists or that their departure would herald sectarian strife resulting in civil war were correct. No one believed them at the time. Saddam Hussein’s ousting should have taught us a lesson. His iron fist not only served as a buffer to Iranian expansionism, but it preserved his country’s territorial integrity.

Far from opening the democracy’s door, his fall from grace opened Pandora’s box spewing hatred and bloodshed. A case in point is the deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. An undated video taken while he was still in office – translated by Raymond Ibrahim and published on the Gatestone Institute’s website – shows his insight into the future of Egypt without him. He tells an interviewer that the Muslim Brotherhood takes advantage of the poor economic situation by handing out small sums of money to its following, saying “Here, take this bag of [nitro]glycerine and throw it here or do this or that to create a state of instability in Egypt. And these groups … do not ever believe that they want democracy or anything like that. They are exploiting democracy to eliminate democracy. “And if they ever do govern, it will be an ugly dictatorship. For years we have been trying to dialogue with them, and we still are. If the dialogue is limited to words, fine. But when the dialogue goes from words to bullets and bombs…” His prediction was spot on and if it were not for the timely intervention of the new President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, it is more than likely Egypt would have gone the way of Syria, Iraq and Libya.

From the start I felt aggrieved at the way Egypt’s president, a war hero, was treated; all the good things he had done over 30 years were forgotten obscured by a wish for revenge and retribution. He could have flown out just as Tunisia’s former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali did. He could have spent his twilight years in comfortable exile. For days a plane awaited him on a tarmac near Sharm el-Sheikh. He had plenty of offers from various countries but he chose to stay because he loved his country and did not want to die anywhere else. If he had left, he would have escaped prison, multiple trials/retrials and humiliation.

Is it not time that the Egyptian courts and people showed this ailing 87-year-old compassion? President el-Sisi is a strong and merciful leader, who has pardoned many hundreds of convicted prisoners. Admittedly, until recently, the climate was not conducive to a pardon for the former president due to post-revolutionary public opinion, but time has healed hearts and it is my hope that he will intervene to bring peace to Hosni Mubarak’s. “Whoever does not show mercy to those on earth will not receive the mercy of He who is in the Heavens,” said the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quoted in al-Bukhari. That alone should give Muslims with hardened hearts pause for thought.

By Khalaf Al Habtoor UAE Businessman

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