By Amina Zarrugh
Tripoli, Libya. Photo courtesy of Amina Zarrugh.
Amina Zarrugh, a sociology graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, focuses her research on gender, religion and nationalism in Libya. She has family roots in the capital city of Tripoli, Libya, where she frequently visits each summer to observe the atmosphere of politics and social life under the Gaddafi regime and during the revolution.
A national survey released by the Pew Research Center last week illustrates increased skepticism among the American public regarding whether the Arab Spring will “benefit” the United States or the Middle East. This uncertainty stems in part from the recent attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Discourses have questioned whether the Arab uprisings were really “worth it” given the loss of U.S. lives. Contrast these sentiments with the collective condemnations of the violence by Libyans, with statements like “Islam is not about killing innocent people” and “We demand justice for Stevens” appearing on signs in Benghazi and Tripoli “sympathy protests” following the attack.
The attitudes expressed by Libyan protesters – in the recent attack and arguably since the inception of their revolutionary movement – have been overshadowed by emphases from the media on a series of “-isms” (terrorism, tribalism, and sectarianism). During the protracted conflict, “Lawrence of Arabia” reels were resurrected from their Orientalist graveyards – apparently only superficially buried – and served as the clarifying lens by which to comprehend contemporary politics and identities in North Africa. (continued)