Claiming injustice, Libyan Islamists push their political role

September 21, 2011

(A mosque damaged during heavy fighting earlier this year between Libyan rebel forces and Gaddafi loyalists is seen in the rebelled controlled city of Misrata August 4, 2011/Darren Whiteside)

Using organisational skills honed over decades in the opposition underground, Islamists are carving out a place in Libyan postwar politics more rapidly than other former dissidents preparing for a hoped-for future of pluralism.

Islamist spokesmen have won prominence by complaining on Arab satellite television channels that veteran advocates of Islamic rule are largely shut out from the North African country’s interim administration and its official media.

They argue that Libya’s unelected caretaker administration known as the National Transitional Council (NTC), is keeping Islamic groups at arm’s length and dominating the political stage to please Western powers worried about militant Islam following the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi, an avowed foe of Islamism.

“The Libyan people have been underground. No Libyan had the chance of exposure. Now we see the NTC come and take the spotlight,” Mohamed Abdul Malek, a senior official of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main Islamist organisation, told Reuters.

The Islamists’ adroitness in using the international media to grab some of the attention they say they have been denied at home is not surprising, say analysts.

Gaddafi’s fall and the disappearance of his secret police have made possible the exercise of pent-up political energies long suppressed during 42 years of what Islamists call Gaddafi’s megalomania — activists are now free to work hard to get their message out, they say.

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