By Huda A. Ahmed
I don’t often make a practice of being confrontational, but for this week’s column, I think I might do just that. Get ready. It’s about to get real.
I heard somewhere that Libya is one of few countries with more active cell phones than people in the country. This may not be accurate but it is the general sentiment and so mobile-related allusions run colloquial here. The term, “double shafra” is one good example of how this works.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it is an example of social labelling that is currently gaining recognition among residents throughout the country. Though it holds more of a political significance, it also includes any individual of Libyan descent with a dual nationality.
The term, “shafra” refers to a phone SIM card, and the individual in this reference is like a Dual SIM, or a phone with built-in simultaneous dual SIM card access.
Just as dual SIM phones are considered convenient gadgets, a “double shafra” enjoys the convenience of having two passports in their pockets as opposed to one.
“You are a double shafra,” someone told me not too long ago. This was my first introduction to the term. I had never heard of it before this.
“A what?” I asked.
“Aren’t you Libyan and American. Double shafra. Double passport. Get it?”
My reaction to the term was passive. I had no reason to question the labelling. Okay, I am a double shafra, I thought. It even sounds a little cool. But it was not until I heard the term in a political discussion that I recognised the negative connotation that the term holds.
It can be argued that the term “double shafra” (and yes, I will continue placing the term in quotation marks, as it holds little legitimacy in my personal opinion), is synonymous with a lack of patriotism.
That holding a citizenship in another country makes you less loyal to your motherland, in this case Libya. The fact that the individual holds easy access to an alternative passport, does not sit well with many people.
And though there is at least one individual out there with a dual citizenship with little loyalty to Libya, the term puts all dual nationals under an unfair generalisation, including myself.
I would like to say at this point in writing this article that I thought long and hard prior to discussing this topic in the Bifocal, since my view may, and should be seen as biased. But when it comes to colloquial terminology that is on the verge of discrimination I think a personal opinion is exactly what is needed.
From my circle of “double shafras”, I have noticed an active effort to shift the negative connotation to a positive one. My friends own up to this term; call themselves a “double shafra”, perhaps in hope that their actions and tacit love for this country will speak to the people surrounding them. However, it is my belief that social labelling is a reality in every society that should never be entertained.
I, as nothing more than an average citizen, sense the term stirring a growing resentment among diverse Libyans. If the loyalty of a “double shafra” is questioned by the public, these individuals may be restricted from holding managerial positions, as some believe this restriction should be implemented when/if the draft of the political isolation law is passed.
No Libyan citizen is a second class citizen. You cannot be held accountable for your experiences in life, only by your actions. This is the fair message we should all be promoting, not judgmental labels. There are enough of those in the world.
Huda A. Ahmed, a full-blooded Libyan who is experiencing what it means to live in Libya for the first time