MIDDLE-EASTERN VIEWPOINTS

One of the wonders of the Internet and a plus to the experience of writing a blog, is the pleasure of readers’ responses. During the past few years I’ve heard from several Libyans who have enjoyed my writing. Last year I was interviewed about my experiences in Libya by Hasan Karayam, a Libyan-born college student getting his PhD in history from Middle Tennessee State University. He and his professor wanted to know what life was like in Tripoli at that time–how the mixture of nationalities got along, for instance.

Libyan-born Mosbah Kushad, a professor at the University of Illinois in crop sciences, who lives and works in Champaign, Illinois, wrote me a couple of years ago. When we communicated—after Ghadaffi was deposed—he was on his way to Tripoli for a visit for the first time in years. It would be interesting to know what he thinks about Libya’s current turmoil.

Mosbah wrote: Victoria’s blog brings back pleasant memories of my days as a young boy growing up in Suk El Guma outside Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. When I was in 8th grade, my uncle got me a job as a busboy at the Base for a handsome salary of $21 a month. I was on top of the world with my personal pass to ride the bus to and from the Base. That same gate that everyone remembers very fondly.

I remember watching young American kids neatly dressed walking into the school and some riding the buses from the city. I used to daydream of someday being like one of them. Well, with luck I finished college in Libya, came to the US where I got my Ph.D., and I got a job as a professor in a major university, and thirty-six years later, my kids are living like those kids that I used to dream about. This is my life story as a Libyan American. Like everyone else, I cherish those days but I also cherish the time that I have lived in this great country and the many friends I have made here. The smell of fresh bread from those bakery shops in Suk El Guma is still with me…God bless you all.

Old City Tripoli

Old City Tripoli

When I wrote about a few of the unpleasant habits of some Libyan men, I heard from an Egyptian man, Wael M. El Dessouki, who had lived in Tripoli. He wasn’t too happy with my disparaging remarks.

Dear Ms. Victoria,
 I am an Egyptian who lived in Tripoli for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984. I have read your blog about Tripoli and it’s obvious to me that you are deeply connected to that place. I can understand your feelings. Tripoli is a charming city, not only because of its places but more so because of its people.
 However, in your blog, you have included a few remarks and general statements about Libyans that I believe are inappropriate and offensive. For example, you say, ‘Libyan policemen were not above trying to touch private parts if an American woman or young girl happened to walk too closely to these lusty, over-curious males.’ Maybe you encountered an incident of sexual harassment, however, that does not justify making such a general statement about Libyans.
 Also, the issue of peeing in the streets: maybe you have seen that happening, but I have seen it several times in some US cities. Hence, when you list such thing as a cultural issue, that implies that it is very common and happens in Libya only. 
Some other blogs include similar remarks.

I answered this gentleman and explained I didn’t mean to imply that all Libyan men were rude or ill-mannered and he was happy.

Wael M. El Dessourki answered: Thanks, Victoria, for your positive response. Your writings about your experiences in Libya are wonderful and I sincerely enjoyed them. I am quite sure you did not have any bad intentions when you mentioned those remarks; however, as an Arab, I see those remarks as annoying dents in a very nice picture. I am concerned that such remarks might be a turnoff for other Arab readers.

In this world, we hope to build bridges between cultures that bring people to common understanding and to respect our differences. In my opinion, your blog is similar to a nice bridge but unfortunately it’s got some holes.

I admit I am not perfect, although I did not say that to this concerned Egyptian reader. He wrote before the Egyptian and the Libyan uprisings and continuing unrest. I wonder what his thoughts are now about the upheavals??

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