South African President Nelson Mandela will visit Libya this week to reveal "important news" concerning the dispute between Libya, Britain and the United States over the trial of two Libyans suspected of the Lockerbie bombing.
Mandela hinted last week at a possible mediation effort. His visit to Libya brought forth a barrage of violent criticism from the United States which is obsessed by Libya; Mandela however, bushed aside all these remarks. He faced American arrogance with his usual quiet approach and rebuked the unreasonable US. government stand. The United States, he said, wants to act as police, judge and executioner and is bent on punishing Libya for alleged acts of "terrorism."
By his visit to Libya, Mandela has sent a message to the United States: We have had enough of your trade embargoes and sanctions. Enough of your preaching from the "high moral ground" that you appropriate through your media. You have enough skeletons in your own closet. That is what Mandela is saying. And it needs saying.
President Mandela questioned the right of the United States to dictate to others and their arrogance.
Mandela, in prison, for 27 years knows what arrogance means: The "arrogance orchestra" led by Madeline Albright wants countries to dance to the US tunes. Many are doing so; however, those countries with leaders like Mandela have their own tunes and dance to their own music. They neither want nor need American orders as to what they should do or how they should behave.
The United States government has a double standard. It is quick to condemn and criticize some countries, accusing them of state-sponsored terrorism. Yet it conveniently turns a blind eye to many horrible incidents committed by its partners. When the two Israeli agents were arrested in Jordan for the attempted murder of a Palestinian activist, US authorities moved in quickly to deflect any "damage" that might befall its ally in the Middle East. What is the difference between these assassins and others? The only difference is that they are Israeli.
The problem that faces many countries is that they lack the guts to stand up to the US or any power. Mandela has nothing to hide. He can call America's bluff. He is not afraid to ask for lifting of sanctions against Libya or any other country. Even the Arab League did not come out with a forthright statement. It was wishy-washy with its statement, suggesting a lack of political courage.
Mandela has shown that one can - and perhaps should - question the mighty. His example should be emulated by others. The mighty should be spoken boldly to, with no fear on the part of the speakers. We in the Arab world would of course like to see the perpetrators of the callous Lockerbie crime brought to justice.
Their punishment must be an example to others who might think of committing a similar act.
Political arrogance, however, should never cloud the course of justice.
Recently there has been a debate in the United States about the increasing number of juvenile delinquents. This debate, I think, has been going on for years.
However, the debate has become more focused because violent crimes by young people have reached dangerously alarming levels. Sociologists attribute this to many factors, mainly the break-up of the family unit and the bad influence of television. We in this part of the world, on the other hand, luckier because the glue that holds our society together - the extended family - acts as a barrier to the breakdown of morality, law and order.
Despite the advancement in technology and mobility, social harmony as well as family values has resulted in a society relatively free from the turbulence common in different parts of the world.
This country has made rapid progress in the last two and a half decades; it did not go through social upheavals because of the social cohesiveness as well as the ideological values that it adheres to.
One of the main ingredients of a stable society is a unified family. And here "unified" does not mean a nuclear family consisting of father, mother and children or single parent and children but extends to cousins, second cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even beyond. Anyone in trouble can thus reach out and dozens of hands will offer assistance, be it moral or financial. That is the beauty of our society.
While others around us are sounding alarm bells about declining and calling for the restoration of family values, society here in the Gulf is becoming closer and more united in order to face the future. Let us not, however, be complacent and pat ourselves on the back. We have to remain vigilant and work hard to keep what we hold dear.