News / Africa

Libyan Opposition Leaders Debate Role of Religion in Government

A young girl waves the opposition flag as an angry but peaceful crowd demonstrates outside the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya, April 11, 2011
A young girl waves the opposition flag as an angry but peaceful crowd demonstrates outside the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya, April 11, 2011

Multimedia

While Libyan opposition forces battle troops loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in central and western Libya, opposition leaders have formed an interim authority in the east and are planning to draft a new constitution. Part of the debate centers on the role of religion in this deeply Muslim part of the country.

Leaders in opposition-held parts of Libya like to call the uprising that began February 17 "a revolution." They hope to institute democracy and the rule-of-law through a new constitution.

A professor of religious law at Benghazi’s Garyounis University, Osama el-Salladi, says that under the 41-year rule of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, religious institutions were as controlled as political life.

He says, "therefore we as a nation aspire to a democratic, constitutional and civil state. There is no place for a system where a family, or one individual, controls everything."

Islam is an important part of daily life in Libya, as witnessed by the thousands of people who gather every Friday for prayers at opposition headquarters in Benghazi.

Some observers fear radical Islamists will take advantage of the current power vacuum and take over the fledgling state. El-Salladi does not believe that will happen though he says religious leaders will play a role in building the new state.

He says the vast majority of the people in Libya are moderate and the space for extremism is small and very limited. But when all the people gather to decide on the future, the majority will decide which way the society will go.

A spokesman for the opposition National Transitional Council, Mustafa Gheriani, says Libyan society follows the Sunni way of Islam and does not have the sectarian divisions that have fueled extremists in some Muslim countries.

"They [extremists] have no platform to work. Libyan society is very integrated. People know each other. There is no room for suicide bombers. And we don’t fear them," said Gheriani. "In a democracy you do not fear political views."

A political adviser to the opposition council, Professor Zahi Mogherbi, says the lack of individual freedoms under the Gadhafi regime encouraged religious extremism.

"But once you have an open society where everybody has the right to discuss public issues, has the right to run for office, I feel that will ameliorate and maybe eradicate most of these radical and extremist tendencies," Mogherbi stated.

Ulrich Reuter, a German businessman with lengthy experience in Libya, says fears that Islamists could hijack the Libyan revolution are unfounded.

“No. This is only rumors. I am working eight years with the people here. I have seen each area here in Libya and there is no problem in terms of religion. The people are just not happy with the system," he said.

A political analyst at Cairo’s Al-Ahram Institute for Strategic Studies, Ziad Akl, says because of the nature of Gadhafi's rule, religion did not play an important role in politics.

"The kind of monocracy that Gadhafi has created is not very much influenced by religion politically as much as it is influenced by religion socially," said Akl. "So the role of religious leaders right now - those who are in support of Gadhafi are trying to mobilize people in the name of the regime and those who are in support of the rebels are also trying to mobilize people. But religion is not being used like a political tool right now. It is being used as a mobilization force."

Nevertheless, observers say because of religion’s importance in Libyan society, they expect it to play a significant role in any new constitution and government. The level of its importance remains to be seen.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid