بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Libyan Constitutional Union :
Its Establishment and Development (15)
A Documentary Article by Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
(Summary Translation from Arabic)
Readers of this series of documentary articles will be able to examine a narrative of historical events that took place in an important period in the history of our country. I am of the opinion that it is a duty to the homeland to record and publish these historical events, so that we do not lose contact with that important part of our contemporary history. As the narrative of these events deal with the stances of some individuals who were active participants in them, it becomes essential that these stances be recorded in their proper contexts. The intention behind the publication of these accounts, almost a quarter of a century after their occurrences, is not to criticise or denigrate the individuals who were active participants in them. Rather, this publication is a modest attempt to uncover and clarify part of our history that is passed over in silence. Thus, I hope that this aim should not be misconstrued and the writer of this article should not bear the responsibility for the cynical interpretations by others of its content.
(First published in Arabic on 12 May 2007)
(2) Announcing the Establishment of the
Libyan Constitutional Union
Hajj Abdallah Bosenn is regarded as one of the most prominent personalities among Libyan dissidents and the Libyan community in the UK. He and his family had chosen London to be their place of residence after moving from Egypt in the middle of the 1980’s.
He is very well known for his varied social activities in the milieu of the Libyan community in Britain and in particular London where its concentration is the most pronounced in the UK.
Hajj Bosenn’s organisation of social activities that maintained and reinforced ties and links amongst members of the Libyan community in the Diaspora made him the coalescing point for its members. In addition to this he was also acting as the head of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood organisation (LMBO). Most of the organisation’s members were concentrated in the UK.
Shortly after his arrival to London, Hajj Adballa Bosenn visited me at my home in Manchester. At that time he was active in paying frequent visits to Libyan personalities resident in different parts of the UK to invite them to join the LMBO.
I surmised by the investigative manner of his conversation with me that Hajj Bosenn was visiting me for two reasons, (1) to find out what the LCU was all about from its main source, and (2) to evaluate the degree of gravity of its founders to work to achieve its aims.
Our friendly conversation covered many subjects, the most important of which was the extent of my commitment to the declared aims and goals of the LCU and their realisation. The uncompromising commitment of the LCU members, including myself to honouring and upholding its principles as represented in the endeavour to return the constitutional legitimacy to its customary position in the country was plainly evident to my guest and thus it was difficult for him to ask me to join his organisation, and ultimately made the hope of his persuading me to do so disappear completely.
Hajj Bosenn left for his residence in London leaving me with the impression that our brotherly contacts would continue and flourish for the sake of what is good and beneficial for the Libyan cause.
However, time has passed without this hoped for communication taking place.
The early and mid 1980’s was a very busy period for the Libyan opposition movements. The activities of the LMBO required all the energy of its head and members to achieve prominence in opposing the military coup d'état regime in Libya. This level of activity, convening assemblies, pamphleteering, and issuing numerous press releases and literature, was only equalled by the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL). That was, in spite of the blending and overlapping that was noticeable of the two organisations in their activities of opposing the ruling regime in Libya. A number of prominent, as well as ordinary members, of the LMBO joined the NFSL when it was established as an opposition organisation.
This overlapping, accord and affinity between the two organisations, baffled many dissidents who could not decide which organisation had the upper hand over the other. However, others who were interested in this matter were not as bewildered, for they believed that the NFSL was no more than an organisation whose fabric was woven by the same spindle of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The stance of the LMBO towards the LCU in general and toward me personally was characterised at that time by a complete indifference which took the form of boycotting by its members. This boycott took place in spite of the close and warm friendship that I had with some members who disowned this relationship because of their partisanship. They refrained from inviting us to both the social gatherings they organised for the Libyan community, and to the political meetings in the context of the struggle against the dictatorship in Libya.
In this context I believe that it is instructive to mention an episode, at that period, in which the reader might find a clear indication of the extent and the type of boycott that have been practiced against us by the LMBO and more specifically by their leadership.
At a large gathering of representatives of the Libyan community in the UK which took place in 1987 to discuss the establishment of a co-operative society for the community, one of the participants, Mr Ali Zeo, politely questioned Hajj Bosenn about the reason for not extending an invitation to me to take part in that gathering, while almost everybody else was invited. The few exceptions were personalities whom did not see eye to eye with the brotherhood.
In his friendly reproach, Ali Zeo told Hajj Bosenn that the repeated omission of invitations to Mohamed Ben Ghalbon to the public occasions of the Libyan community in Britain embarrassed many of its members and fostered the impression of a conspiracy against him which was not true. He concluded by requesting that Hajj Bosenn take this into consideration in future occasions, and suggested that he contact me to explain.
Consequently, Hajj Bosenn contacted me by phone and apologized to me profusely for not extending an invitation to me when he was sending the invitations to members of the Libyan community to attend that gathering. He attributed his failure to invite me, to his forgetfulness!
In the milieu of his apology, Hajj Bosenn added that there was none more deserving to attend these functions, than myself for my being among the first of the Libyans who came to Britain seeking freedom and the opportunity to struggle and oppose the corrupt regime ruling Libya.
In spite of the aforementioned apology the situation did not change at all. The boycott against us continued in the exact same manner as before. It was clear to me that our continuous collective boycott from this colossal organisation, which was not dissimilar to the one, waged against us by the NFSL originated from their (the brotherhood’s) fear of reviving the Sanussiya movement. In their view, that would create a rival to their organisation, which cloaked its struggle with the mantle of religion.
This, of course, was exactly what the devotees of the Khaliliya Order thought (as mentioned in part 14 of this article). For, both the Khaliliya order and the LMBO shared the opinion that the establishment of the LCU was nothing but the beginning of the revival of the rivalry of the Sanussiya movement to them. Something they both wanted to avoid, especially at a time when the Libyan opposition arena was bustling with various groups and organisations feverishly competing for new adherents. We must, however, be careful in noting the clear difference between the nature and aims of the Khaliliya Order and the nature, composition, aims, size and influence of the LMBO, in the Libyan milieu.
The aforementioned explanation can be summarized by stating that the leadership and the members of the Muslim Brotherhood shared the belief with the Khaliliya order that the call of the LCU to rally around King Idris El-Sannusi, the symbol representing the constitutional legitimacy in Libya, was a step towards the revival of the activities of the Sanunssiya movement and the return to its previously enjoyed position in Libya. This, according to their estimation, would lead to the cessation of the activities of other religious movements, which endeavour to achieve political aims through the utilizations of religious means.
There is no need for me here to reiterate the falsity of this concept adhered to by the leaderships and members of these two groups.
Perhaps, it would be instructive here to refer to a meeting of a number of Libyan opposition groups which my brother, Hisham, and I attended, in April 1995. This meeting was called for by the Libyan Movement for Change and Reform (LMCR), and was the first meeting we had been invited to attend. That was our first meeting with a number of opposition groups to co-ordinate our efforts in the common cause of opposing the brutal regime in Libya.
There are two reasons for my referral to this meeting:
Firstly, it was a clear proof of the boycott against us that had been engineered by the two organisations, the Muslim Brotherhood and NFSL with the intention of making us absent in all the public activities ( be they political or social in nature) .
Not withstanding the fact that the invitation by the LMCR to us to attend that meeting was dictated upon it by the prevailing circumstances of that era. These circumstances had led to the separation of this new group from its mother organisation, the NFSL, after deep and irreconcilable differences between their leaderships. The new splinter group had among its leading personalities the two previous sources of the financial backing of the NFSL, Hajj Saber Majid and Mr. Husain Safrakis who between them guaranteed the adequate financial support of the new organisation for a number of the following years.
Eventually the activities of the LMCR ceased and it took a quite corner beside NFSL and other organisations and groups whose activities had stagnated due to lack of financial backing. The Muslim brotherhood, however never faced this hindrance of financial backing, for its channels of funding are different from its counterparts in the Libyan opposition movements. Details of this matter are outside the context of this narration.
This invitation made us think that it was the beginning of a new era, in which a new method and a different style would characterise the work strategy of the Libyan opposition. This new approach would (as we thought) create an all prevailing open-minded dynamism free from bigotry and the autocracy, which had dominated the Libyan opposition for a long time, to domineer and control others.
Secondly, part of the discussion in that meeting verified the analysis I have referred to above and highlights the fear the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership had of the revival of the Sanussiya movement.
The LMBO was represented in that meeting by their chairman Hajj Bosenn and two of their most prominent members (Younis Al-Ballali and Milad Al-Hasadi). When it was the turn of the LMBO to address the meeting, the task was shouldered by Younis Al-Ballali to express his group’s point of view in the on-going discussion. He looked at the participants with contempt and disdain which was shared by his comrade Milad Al-Hasadi. The latter had a contemptuous and derisory expression on his face, which betrayed clearly his true feelings towards the attendants, which he never bothered to hide.
Younis Al-Ballali opened his speech by praising Allah that the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the stage of events in Libya had preceded that of the Sanussiya movement!! He then continued by stressing that the Muslim Brotherhood would never deviate from demanding the application of Islamic Sharia in Libya. He made that statement as he looked around at all those present and said in a defying tone of voice, “Do you have any objections to the application of the Islamic Sharia in Libya”?
In his speech, Younis Al-Ballali inserted a historical falsification and a cynical political calculation.
I decided not to correct Al-Ballali’s falsification, which could have one of two ramifications:
The First was that it exposed Al-Ballali as not only lacking in knowledge and appreciation of the history of the Sanussiya movement but, worse than that, ignorant of the history of the LMBO of which, he was one of its most prominent members. For, he displayed a glaring ignorance of the date of the establishment of his organization by Sheikh Hassan Al-Banna in the city of Ismailiya, 1928. The establishment of this organization’s cells in Libya did not start until the beginning of the sixties of the last century. Furthermore, the Sanussiya movement was established in the region of Cyrenaica in Libya at the end of the 19 century and had continued working and contributing until the usurping of power by the military in 1969.
The second ramification of his statement was that he chose to ignore facts and historical details related to the establishment of the Sanussiya movement and the Muslim Brotherhood with which he is well acquainted, but in spite of this he went ahead with his attempt to spread this propaganda believing the others were ignorant of these details.
Regardless of which of the two possibilities is closer to the truth in this context; one thing is not open to interpretation: the reason behind the spreading of this falsification was to insinuate against the LCU, which was established with the cornerstone idea of rallying around King Idris El-Sanussi as a symbol and a representative of the constitutional legitimacy.
I chose not to correct the falsification there and then so as not to embarrass the speaker in front of the whole meeting. However, I could not forgive his cynical political calculations in his saying that his group were insistent on the application of the Islamic Sharia laws in Libya. So I told him –in broad outlines- that there was no need for this type of cynical political blackmail and the manipulation of Islamic principles for political ends. For all of us were believers in Islam and we desire that Allah (SWT) grace us with living under the divinely decreed Islamic Sharia and His praiseworthy commandments. However, what we refuse is for the Islamic Sharia to be applied according to the whims and fancy of some individuals and groups who use the tools of religion to realise their own political ends as happened in a certain region under the rule of a certain group.
I meant by this allusion the application of the Sharia in the Sudan (which had been discussed earlier on the peripheral of that meeting) under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The application of the Sharia was implemented according to the whims and interests of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood who meted out Sharia punishment on a person stealing a loaf of bread in a country living on the brink of famine while overlooking the members of its government who robbed the Sudan and its people of millions .
To be continued
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
17th July 2007
Many thanks to Br. Mustafa for, yet again, undertaking the strenuous task of translating this article from Arabic.