Libyan Islamists staged demonstrations calling for sharia law, in three major centers of Libya on Friday. This follows the raising of an Al Qaeda flag in Benghazi and continued human rights abuses inflicted by Libya's rebel militia victors.
Large crowds of Libyan Islamists demonstrated in Benghazi,Tripoli and Sabha on Friday, demanding that post-Gaddafi Libya be ruled by sharia based law. Alarabiya reported up to 3,000 demonstrators gathered in Benghazi, waving copies of the Koran and shouting "Islamic! Islamic."
The demonstration was largely predictable as the uprising against Gaddafi was led by former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a named terrorist group banned under Gaddafi. Armed and funded by Qatar with the support of NATO, leading members of LIFG had the two fold aim of removing Gaddafi from power and establishing Libya as a caliphate state.
Friday's demonstrators included hard line Salafist Islams, members of the Muslim brotherhood and others who advocate sharia above civil governance. In Tripoli a group of secularists opposed to sharia law have staged a one-month sit in calling for a civil state.
Whilst the west turns a blind eye to continued human rights abuses conducted under the rule of the National Transitional Council, there are lone voices of concern that express worry over the likelihood of Libya becoming a caliphate. Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raised the issue back in October when he pointed out that Stone Age laws would repress Libyan women. The Toronto Sun reported that Liberal Bob Rae said "We didn't send our troops, our pilots to help in the liberation of Libya in order to see any one group in Libyan society oppressed. The liberation of Libya means the liberation of Libyan women as well as Libyan men."
Under sharia law Libyan women will face repression, a backwards step from the relative freedoms they were used to under Gaddafi. The first change that Mustaf Abdel-Jalil instigated when the Gaddafi regime was overthrown was the outlawing of the ban on polygamy, the first indication that women should be concerned over the introduction of sharia.
What is surprising about Friday's demonstrations is that they were organized at a time when Libya's leading Islamists are out of the country, amassing a Wahhabi army on the Turkish-Syrian border. It points to coordinated organization in the build up to free elections. If the Islamists win enough support then strict shariah law under the leadership of Abdel Hakim Belhaj is a realistic prospect.