Sectarian tension is growing in Libya as two important Sufi religious sites have been attacked in the last two days by Salafist activists.
The Sufis have traditionally been important in Libyan affairs. Sufis practice a form of mystical Islam that stresses individual purtiy of heart and contact with the divine. Wikipedia notes:Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God". Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one's inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits".[5Salafists are more concerned with strict adherence to what they regard as correct doctrine. Many see the Sufi's as heretics and idolaters since they venerate their scholars and their graves.
An armed group on Saturday bulldozed part of the mausoleum of Al-Shaab Al-Dahman, close to the center of the Libyan capital. This happened just a day after another mausoleum was blown up in Zilten a city 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of Tripoli. Another mausoleum still is reported destroyed in Misrata a port 200 kilometers east of Tripoli.
In the Al-Dahman incident the armed group apparently including government security forces bulldozed the mosque. Allegations had been spread that the Sufis engaged in "black magic". The newly-elected National Congress president said:"What is truly regrettable and suspicious is that some of those who took part in these destructive activities are supposed to be members of the security forces and from the revolutionaries."
Apparently security forces tried to stop the demolition but after a clash with the armed group the police actually cordoned off the area while the destruction went ahead allegedly to prevent violence! Reuters said it had information that the Interior Ministry gave a green light to the bulldozing apparently because they discovered that people had been worshipping the graves and also practicing black magic! The mosque contained about 50 Sufi graves including that of an important scholar and soldiers who fought against Spanish colonialists.
These incidents show that the new central government is not yet in control and cannot provide security when armed groups decided to enforce their own demands.