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On a tidy campus in his capital of Tripoli, dictator Muammar Gaddafi sponsored one of the world's leading Muslim missionary networks. It was the smiling face of his Libyan regime, and the world smiled back.
The World Islamic Call Society (WICS) sent staffers out to build mosques and provide humanitarian relief. It gave poor students a free university education, in religion, finance and computer science. Its missionaries traversed Africa preaching a moderate, Sufi-tinged version of Islam as an alternative to the strict Wahhabism that Saudi Arabia was spreading.
The Society won approval in high places. The Vatican counted it among its partners in Christian-Muslim dialogue and both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict received its secretary general. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world's Anglicans, visited the campus in 2009 to deliver a lecture. The following year, the U.S. State Department noted approvingly how the Society had helped Filipino Christian migrant workers start a church in Libya.