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Posts Tagged ‘Tripoli-Libya’

Libya’s Revolution Produces a New Hybrid: Pro-Western Islamists

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 16, 2011


The Libyan rebels chuckle when they find a child-sized T-shirt featuring a cartoon of Osama bin Laden amid the

Former rebel fighters pray at a checkpoint near Bani-Walid, Libya, September 12, 2011 Alexandre Meneghini / AP

surveillance files, tapes and photos in one of the buildings abandoned by Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s internal security forces. Sporting thick, bushy beards in a fresh show of religiosity they say never would have been tolerated under the old regime, they have mixed feelings about the man on the T-shirt. “Fighting in the name of Islam is something that all Muslims respect,” says Mukhtar Enhaysi, carefully. “But when [Bin Laden] makes explosions and commits acts of terrorism against civilians who have nothing to do with that, no one agrees with that.”

Enhaysi’s nuanced view is commonplace in a country whose citizens are suddenly free to express themselves, although the subtle Islamist current in the rebellion has worried some of its Western backers. Rebel forces in Tripoli are commanded by a former associate of Bin Laden, who the CIA had sent to Libya for questioning and torture by Gaddafi’s regime. And the leader of the rebel Transitional National Council has called for a constitution guided by Islamic values, reflecting popular sentiment in a country whose people describe themselves as conservative, and who have endured 42 years of enforced — albeit, many say, superficial — secularism under Gaddafi, even as he tried to style himself as the nemesis of the West.(See pictures of the lengthy battle for Libya.)

Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told a cheering crowd in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square this week that, “We seek a state of law, prosperity and one where Sharia [Islamic law] is the main source for legislation, and this requires many things and conditions,” adding that “extremist ideology” would not be tolerated.

Indeed, for a citizenry that views itself as inherently more conservative than its Egyptian and Tunisian neighbors, it shouldn’t be surprising that Libya’s interim leaders are already emphasizing the Islamic character of their future government. But many say that Gaddafi’s legacy — and NATO’s recent intervention — has also paved the way for a different kind of Islamist than the type that Washington has long feared. “The fact that Gaddafi used [the West] as a common enemy, well, the saying ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ holds very true here,” says one official in the National Transitional Council (NTC), speaking on condition of anonymity. “If you compound that with the fact that the Westerners were instrumental in their support [of the rebels] and in the demise of Gaddafi, you see that people are really quite friendly.”(See a brief history of Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule.) Read the rest of this entry »

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