FaithWorld

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

(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.

Libyan Islamic scholars issue fatwa for Muslims to rebel

benghazi protest

(Protesters in Benghazi, February 20, 2011/Youtube via Reuters TV)

A coalition of Libyan Islamic leaders has issued a fatwa telling all Muslims it is their duty to rebel against the Libyan leadership.  The group also demanded the release of fellow Islamic scholar Sadiq al-Ghriani, who was arrested after criticising the government, and “all imprisoned demonstrators, including many of our young students”.

Calling itself the Network of Free Ulema of Libya, the group of over 50 Muslim scholars said the government and its supporters “have demonstrated total arrogant impunity and continued, and even intensified, their bloody crimes against humanity.”

Open dissent by established Muslim clerics is rare in North Africa, but the crackdown on protesters rallied the scholars to form the previously unknown Network of Free Ulema. Their first statement issued on Saturday denounced the government for firing on demonstrators who were demanding “their divinely endowned and internationally recognised human rights” and stressed the killing of innocent people was “forbidden by our Creator.”

Libyan Muslim leaders urge military to stop shooting protesters

benghazi

(Benghazi port, 13 March 2009/Dennixo)

The bloody crackdown on protesters in Libya has prompted about 50 Libyan Muslim religious leaders to issue an appeal to the security forces as Muslims to stop the killing or face the wrath of God.

Dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday, an eyewitness told Reuters, in the worst unrest in Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power. Snipers fired at protesters from a compound to which they had withdrawn, said the resident, who did not want to be named.

“Dozens were killed … not 15, dozens. We are in the midst of a massacre here,” the eyewitness resident in Benghazi said. Human Rights Watch said earlier that 84 people had been killed over the past three days in a fierce security crackdown mounted in response to anti-government protests that sought to emulate uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.