Rashaad Basheer Al-Hooni:* * *
Rashaad Al-Hooni is very well known to many Libyans, particularly in intellectual circles.(1) His distinguished literary contributions had a profound impact on his contemporary readers, who followed his work in the Libyan press.
In fact, had it not been for the limited circulation and lack of distribution of Libyan newspapers in the Arab world, a good number of distinguished Libyan writers would have come to prominence alongside the literary giants of the Arab press and media, with Rashaad Al-Hooni undoubtedly being among the top names.
Rashaad was a poet and an accomplished essayist who excelled as a columnist in the field of written journalism.
However, his most outstanding contribution which –to me- would celebrate him most as one of the pioneers of propagating cultural and political awareness in Libyan society in the country’s modern history would be his role -alongside his brother Mohamed- in establishing the “Al-Haqiqa” newspaper in 1964. Rashaad became editor in chief of the paper from its launch until it was closed in 1973 by orders of the military coup.
Under Rashaad’s entrepreneurial, pioneering vision and guidance Al-Haqiqa played a crucial role in enlightening the readers of their country’s vital affairs. The paper also fostered a whole new generation of brilliant writers whose bright ideas formed a fine institution of Journalism in Libya, which nourished the minds of the youth searching for cultural identity in the early days of the formation of the modern Libyan state. At that time, the country as a whole was feeling its way towards comprehensive development with its social, political and economical dimensions. Renowned names such as Sadiq Al-Naihum and Khalifa El-Fakhri are two cases in point.
During my campaign to contact prominent Libyan notables to inform them of the idea of the Libyan Constitutional Union (immediately following its establishment) to invite them to join our endeavours to re-establish constitutional legitimacy to Libya, I contacted Rashaad Al-Hooni with whom I had a friendly relationship to arrange a meeting.* * *
He received me at his home in the English town of Kingston-upon-Thames. After a brief and cordial chat about Libya and old times I presented to him details of the idea upon which the LCU revolved and expressed to him my sincere hope that he could join us, or at least lend a hand to aid our efforts.
Having absorbed all aspects of the core idea of the restoration of the constitutional legitimacy to Libya, Rashaad disclosed to me that it was an impeccable idea to have as a basis for resolving the predicament of our beleaguered country.
He added that his love and devotion to the homeland was second to none. However, the bitter experience which he had endured when he was totally abandoned by his friends as well as the public at large during his ordeal when - following the coup d'état of September 1969 he was twice jailed and put on trial before military courts that lacked legitimacy and qualification, for crimes he did not commit - had left permanent and painful scars on him.
He went on to say that there was no force in the universe that would be able to extract the love of Libya from his heart and which pulsated through his veins ever since his mind fully comprehended the true meanings of the intellectual and compassionate values. However, equally there was no force capable of convincing him to join any political activity after his personal experience taught him that the Libyan people did not yet absorb the needed awareness to prompt them to defend the rights of the individual when he is subjected to the injustices of the ruling authority.
In other words, he was saying that that there was not enough vigilance in Libya which would prompt members of the society to act in solidarity with the individual from amongst them when his legitimate, individual rights are being violated, or when he is subjected to oppression by the ruling authority. Libyan society was still lacking the comprehensive recognition of the concept of solidarity, symbiosis, teamwork, collective bondage and community of interests in order to defend the rights of its various members, groups or factions when they face the brutality of the oppressive rulers.
Naturally the absence of this awareness led to society losing one of its most important fundamental features to preserve and protect the rights and freedom of its members. For collective awareness of the individual’s rights is a necessity they can ill afford to do without. It is the living conscience buried deep inside them that guides them to protect their legitimate rights towards the deviated policies of ruling authority within the country they live in.
More specifically, in the absence of the necessary awareness, members of society did not only lose their own individual means that would alert them to the threat when the ruling authority violates their lawful rights, but they also lost their chance of developing the effective means to deter the deviated authority and force it to respect their rights, which could even lead to toppling this deviated authority from power if necessity dictated.
The conclusion here, was that such comprehensive conscious awareness would affirm in members of society the simple yet vital fact that infringing on the rights of an individual member of society constitutes a violation of the rights of society as a whole. For there silence is a kin to them conceding their collective privilege to practice their political rights, and voluntarily compromising their entitlement of expressing their views regarding their personal lives.
On the other hand, it was tantamount to handing over to the ruling authority a licence to repeat its deviation and hence encourage it to get carried away in its wrongdoings.
In his elaborate analysis which I summarised above, Rashaad was advocating the absolute necessity to create sufficient awareness among members of Libyan society before embarking on any confrontation with the tyrannical ruling military regime.
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He foresaw failure as the inevitable outcome of any opposing political activity, as a result of the apathy they would be received with by the majority of the Libyan society which lack the necessary awareness that would in fact be the vital device to generate the collective refusal of the repressive authority(2).
Rashaad disclosed to me that as such he would never participate in any political opposition activity. This was a stand he took towards all Libyan opposition organisations active in exile.
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He then added that if ever he chose to join any opposition group it would have to have one of two goals, if not both. The first is that its main objective should be focused on the restoration of constitutional legitimacy. The second is that its principles should take into consideration the high esteemed position of King Idris. And the two are the main pillars of the LCU.
Rashaad clarified his position by saying that the reasons that shaped his above conviction were born out of two factors; the first was his deep belief that the aspired solution for the return –and stability- of normal political life in Libya is tied to the return of the constitutional legitimacy to what it was before the arrival of the military coup, for it is the guarantee that would insure the citizen’s safety in practicing his constitutional rights against the ruling authority’s potential atrocity.
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The second emanated from his absolute belief in rallying around the person of the king, and to hold on to him as a symbol to lead Libya. This was not just because he was the embodiment of this constitutional legitimacy. There were also personal reasons that motivated Rashaad to hold King Idris and the Senussi movement in high esteem and be loyal and faithful to him. Those sentiments were passed on to him by his late father from childhood and throughout the various stages of his upbringing.
His father, Mr. Basheer Al-Hooni was one of the Senussi brotherhood who grew up within the movement having experienced its noble and tolerant goals, which was focused on teaching its followers the directives of Islam and motivating them to adhere to them, as well as advocated fighting against foreign occupation of the land.
He added that he was raised in a purely Senussi home which prompted his father to name all his sons after members of the Senussi family whom he revered and loved very dearly. His elder brother Mohamed was named after the founder of the movement (the Grand Senussi), his other brother was named Idris, the youngest El-Senussi.
He paused for a short while and added that I shouldn’t think that his own name was outside this constellation. Rashaad was the name given to a brother of King Idris who died immediately after birth.
It must be recalled here that Rashaad had in fact made a similar statement, which revealed his love and devotion to King Idris and the Senussi movement, during his trial before what was falsely called “the people’s court”, which the coup d'état junta held following their gaining power in 1969.
This way, Rashaad expressed to me his profound conviction of the correctness of the course of the LCU, but at the same time declined joining its ranks – or, for that matter, the ranks of any other opposition group, as a result of his bitter experience which coloured his scope of the national case in all its dimensions.
My friendship with Rashaad continued until his death in the early nineties. May God almighty have mercy on his soul and make paradise his final abode. He truly was a literary knight who was dedicated to making a difference. He had a level of magnanimity that preceded him every where he went.
To be continued
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
23 February 2007