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article imageLibya's new leaders prioritise implementing Sharia law

By Katerina Nikolas     Oct 24, 2011 in World
One of the key issues that Mustafa Abdel Jalil emphasized as a priority for the new Libya was the introduction of sharia law. Whilst his announcement came as no surprise the changes which the NTC plan to implement are leaning towards extremism.
It was no secret that Libya’s unelected National Transitional Council intended to implement sharia law if success in the war was on their side. What came as a surprise was the priority which Mustafa Abdel Jalil, interim leader of the NTC, gave to sharia in his speech to celebrate the liberation of Libya. Announcing that sharia law would dominate in a country where Col. Gaddafi previously kept extremism suppressed raises the issue over whether Libya can sustain its position as a modern nation or whether it could descend into a country which denies basic rights and makes intolerable conditions for women.
Jalil announced “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic sharia as the source of legislation, therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified," Aljazeera reported. As Jalil continued he stressed “I want to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims” whilst he declared that polygamy will become legal and current marriage and divorce laws will now follow sharia law, to the detriment of women. Additionally Libya will now limit the interest charged on loans in keeping with the Muslim banking code of not allowing riba.
According to Bare Naked Islam the changes which Jalil announced are more extreme than expected, yet sharia is generally associated with extremism. Former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who took a key role in the initial stages of the uprising in Benghazi, have always wanted to implement sharia in Libya, and follow the extremist form of Salafist Islam which is particularly puritanical and imposes rigid laws and punishments.
It is important to remember that at this stage the NTC remain an unelected body and have not put the issue of sharia law to the people before announcing its imposition. However NTC members have favors to hand out and the military commander of Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, is a great proponent of sharia. If he retains his power base he represents a group of extreme Islamists that have links to Al Qaeda, and the support of Qatar. Western governments have not willingly exposed the amount of power he holds in Libya since his days as a wanted terrorist.
With the early implementation of sharia it may prove difficult to establish a more secular government when elections take place unless further fighting breaks out.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Adelrahman al-Shatr of the newly established Party of National Solidarity, criticized the introduction of sharia at this point, saying “It is a subject that should be discussed with the different political groups and with the Libyan people. These declarations create feelings of pain and bitterness among women who sacrificed so many martyrs.” Al-Shatr went on to say “By abolishing the marriage law, women lose the right to keep the family home if they divorce. It is a disaster for Libyan women.”His sentiments were shared by a Libyan woman who said "It's shocking and insulting to state, after thousands of Libyans have paid for freedom with their lives, that the priority of the new leadership is to allow men to marry in secret.”Despite France having been at the forefront of the NATO campaign to oust Gaddafi and aware of the planned introduction of sharia, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said that France will be keeping a close eye on developments in Libya following Jalil’s announcement. Alarabiya reported Valero said “We will be watchful of respect for human rights and democratic principles, notably cultural and religious diversity and the equality of men and women to which France is unswervingly attached.” Other nations that have handed over millions of dollars toward the efforts to introduce democracy to Libya are also likely to follow developments there closely.
More about Libya, Sharia law, moderate Islam, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, LIFG
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