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article imageOp-Ed: Libya's Grand Mufti speaks out on kidnapping of Muslim scholar

By Ken Hanly     Nov 24, 2016 in World
Controversial Grand Mufti of Libya Sadik Al-Ghariani has accused Madkhalists, followers of Saudi cleric Rabee Al-Madkhali, of being spies and of acting as assassins on behalf of Arab Gulf countries he did not name.
Al Ghariani also claimed that the Madkhalists were allied to Khalifa Haftar whom he called a war criminal. Field Marshal Haftar is the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) the armed forces of the House of Representatives(HoR) based in the east of Libya. The HoR government is a rival to the UN-backed Government of National Accord(GNA) based in Tripoli.
Al-Ghariani's accusations come after several reports discussed in a recent DJ article in which a man named Haithem Al-Zintani, who claimed to be a follower of Madkhali, confessed on TV to being involved in the kidnapping and murder of the prominent Islamic scholar Sheikh Nadir Al-Omrani. Al-Omrani was a prominent member of Dar Al-lfta (Fatwa House). The sheikh was kidnapped by an unknown armed group back on October 6. However, a recent tweet claims that drivers of the two cars used in the kidnapping have been arrested: "More on the kidnapping & alleged killing of Sheikh Nader Amroni; Drivers of the 2 cars used in the kidnapping have been arrested. #Libya." On Tanaseh TV, apparently owned by the Fatwa House, Ghariani said: “These people are receiving instructions from some Arab Gulf states to kill Libyan clerics.” Many of the media outlets in Libya are foreign-owned some by the UAE. The Madkhalites as well apparently have their own media. According to a recent tweet: "Literally 1000s of hours of ranting, like al-Maki's recording, filling airwaves in #Libya, #Madakhila operate ~30 FM Radio Stations." Reports from Libya often need verification before they can be relied upon.
While most reports, talk of Omrani being murdered, according to the Libya Herald his body has not yet been found. You would think that the person who confessed to being involved in the murder would have some idea where the body could be found but no body has yet been found in the location he suggested it was. Religious authorities already suspended 15 clerics associated with Madkhalism from Tripoli mosques. As the Grand Mufti, Ghariani is the highest religious authority in Libya. Authorities have also banned books containing the views of the Egyptian cleric Mohamed Raslan who had been accused of issuing a command to kill the sheikh. Ghariani is often quite controversial and has many opponents. There are unconfirmed reports that forces loyal to Ghariani are gathering to attack Rada (special deterrence forces) at Mitiga air base. Rada members were claimed to have been involved in the abduction.
A very informative article on Madkhalists in Libya by Frederic Wehrey can be found on the Carnegie Middle East Center website. One of the units involved in the offensive on Sirte is the 604th infantry battalion. They were recently able to regain the Cordoba Mosque in Sirte. The former imam was killed by the Islamic State occupiers as he refused to let the group use his mosque. Wehrey traces the growth of Madkhalist groups within Libya and concludes with a warning: But growing fissures within the Islamist field deserve attention, too. The rise of the so-called quietist Salafists, particularly in policing and religious institutions, has been one by-product of Libya’s worsening conflict, regional meddling, and, more recently, the fight against the Islamic State. Security actors in Tripoli, Misrata, Benghazi, and Bayda all acknowledge harnessing the power of Salafi fighting groups in their campaigns against political rivals and the Islamic State. But they are equally frank in admitting the unknown effects of this co-option on Libya’s future.
The abduction and presumed murder has been condemned by Martin Kobler the UN envoy, the Presidential Council (PC) of the GNA, the Salvation Government, and many others and all have called on those responsible to be punished. The Fatwa House issued a statement that said: "Punishment for criminals is an implementation of Allah’s words and a deterrence for other criminals. Shiekh Al-Omrani was assassinated because of his moderate religious thinking and his renunciation of extremists and radicals, who are most likely the ones who killed him based on misleading fatwas coming from outside Libya, just like they did with scholars and preachers in Benghazi.” Given that the culprits may have been involved with powerful militia groups no one may end up being punished.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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