Libyan clerics in rebel-held east see big role for Islam after Gaddafi

May 22, 2011

(A Libyan woman wearing a niqab with the colours of the Kingdom of Libya attends Friday prayers in rebel-held Benghazi April 22, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

An Islamic revival is taking hold in rebel-held eastern Libya after decades of tough curbs on worship by Muammar Gaddafi, but clerics say this will not be a new source of religious extremism as the West may fear. Restrictions on Islamic piety have become history in the east of the Arab North African state since its takeover by anti-Gaddafi insurgents, and clerics see a much bigger role for Islam in the country if Gaddafi is ultimately driven from power.

Under the autocratic Gaddafi’s idiosyncratic brand of communal socialism overlaying Islam, worship was carefully regulated and any apparent manifestation of political, or militant, Islam drew harsh security crackdowns. Yet Libyan society remained religiously conservative in character and that is now flowering anew in the rebel-held east.

In signs of greater Muslim piety, some rebels have grown longer beards, public prayer has become ostentatious, religious books are selling well and plans are afoot for more centres for the study of sharia, or Islamic law — all of which, under Gaddafi, could have led to arrest and imprisonment.

“The situation in free Libya will revert to its natural state — the natural state of the practice of religion in life, in the morals of the people, their ways, their return to the mosques,” said Osama al-Salaaby, a well-known cleric and professor of sharia in Benghazi, the rebels’ de facto capital.

The rebels’ slow battlefield progress has benefited the cause of Islam in Libya, said Salem Jaber, the most senior cleric in the east and head of its mosque oversight body. “We’ve been mixing, and the Islamists and the secularists are coming together to create a middle road,” said Jaber.

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Maybe the Libyans should ask the Iranians how they like their post revolution theocracy when they plan for forming a new government.

Posted by Greenspan2 | Report as abusive

Egypt, then Libya, THEN yEMEN, THEN jORDAN, THEN bAHRAIN, THEN qATER, tHEN sYRIA, get rid of autocrats, aristocrats, the deliberate advance of Islam and Sharia. Who is the dominant player in all this?

Posted by ablingcain | Report as abusive

Ancient superstition has no place in Libya, people need their spare time to build friendships and care for their loved ones. What you end up with are a few old men without a retirement plan wanting every sucker to give money to them in order to get to paradise. The Libyans need to be practical in their approach and simply forget about about it.

Posted by webwork | Report as abusive