On Friday, the Lehigh Valley's gutsiest freedom fighter will once again head for Libya, his native land.
He was there when the monstrous Moammar Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup, he was there for the first eight years of Gadhafi's rule, resisting the tyranny all the way, and he was there when Gadhafi was finally overthrown in October of last year.
Mohamed Bugaighis, 74, of Bethlehem, has been a college math professor most of his life, but he also has been a vocal and respected champion of freedom and democracy.
In addition to putting his life on the line by opposing Gadhafi for four decades, Bugaighis has long opposed other despots — from Saddam Hussein of Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It is a painful irony that President Reagan referred to the latter (then called the Mujahideen and including Osama bin Laden) as "freedom fighters" when he arranged to finance, train and arm them to help them get established in Afghanistan.
As we learned on Sept. 11, 2001, Reagan's use of the term "freedom fighters" for such people was a rank obscenity.
I have been writing about Bugaighis, a genuine freedom fighter, since 1999. A few days ago, as he prepared for his latest trip to his homeland, I paid another visit to him and his wife, Margaret, a native of England.
This will be his fourth return trip since he escaped in 1977, after Gadhafi put him on a "hit list" of people to be killed.
When I asked Mohamed Bugaighis if his outspoken views against Islamic fanatics might still pose a danger to him personally in Libya, he responded lightheartedly.
"I hope not," he smiled, causing his wife to jump into the conversation.
"Definitely," she said sternly. Nevertheless, Margaret Bugaighis has supported her husband's efforts without reservation, and has accompanied him to strife-torn Libya on previous occasions.
Bugaighis was the subject of a story in The Morning Call two weeks ago, after Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which is Bugaighis' hometown.
Bugaighis, it was reported, had met Stevens a number of times and admired him greatly. The fall of Gadhafi, however, has left that country in turmoil. "There is a vacuum and these extremist elements are roaming free," the story quoted him as saying.
Within the next few days, Bugaighis will step back into that cauldron — into its very center in Benghazi, long a hotbed of anti-Gadhafi activity.
In March of last year, a desperate Gadhafi sent his military forces to wipe that troublesome city off the map. "They came to annihilate the city," Bugaighis said, "and kill its people — everybody. … My family would have been wiped out."
He said Benghazi's citizens, however, "put up a fight" against Gadhafi's tanks, and that helped NATO forces (mainly French warplanes) "have a free shooting range."
Bugaighis was there two months later to help continue the fight. Five months after that, he was there when Gadhafi was killed after being found hiding in a culvert.
He said this week's trip is for "participation in the political discussions that are taking place," noting that most Libyans have had 42 years of dictatorship and have no concept of how a representative democracy works. "We are afraid it [hope for a democracy] might just slip away, as it did in Somalia and so forth," Bugaighis said.
At that point, Margaret Bugaighis brought up the time she visited Benghazi last May. A particularly disturbing sign was a heavily armed pickup truck adorned with Ansar al-Sharia flags, reflecting an alliance with the brutal and oppressive Wahhabi Islamic extremists who rule Saudi Arabia.
"They want to impose their own interpretation of Islam on the rest of the population," she said. (She and her husband passionately advocate the separation of church and state everywhere.)