News / Middle East

Libyan Religious Leader Calls For Gender Segregation

Libyan women celebrate the revolution against Moammar Gadhafi's regime and demand more rights.
Libyan women celebrate the revolution against Moammar Gadhafi's regime and demand more rights.
Libya’s top religious authority, the grand mufti, is stirring up controversy with a call for strict gender segregation in all workplaces, classrooms and government offices.

The nation’s human rights groups are warning the mufti’s call, if heeded, will likely encourage Islamic vigilantes who have been pressing for gender segregation and who patrol the streets looking for women they say are immodestly clothed or unaccompanied by a male relative.

In an open letter last week addressed to the country’s leaders, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani warned that unless gender segregation was imposed, Libya risked incurring the wrath of Allah.

Ghariani said he had received complaints about “the deterioration of morals and the widespread phenomena of the free mixing between sexes, with no restrictions or regulations, in all state institutions.” He said such mixing of the sexes was “immoral” and called on authorities to end it, warning otherwise there would be a spread of “immoral havens.”

Last year, Ghariani criticized the government for including passages about democracy and freedom of religion in new school textbooks issued since the fall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. 
 
Libyan activists outraged

The mufti’s latest call for gender segregation has prompted outrage from liberal activists in Libya.

“Mecca is not segregated and our Haj (pilgrimage) is not segregated,” says Dr. Farida Allaghi, a veteran human rights campaigner.

She worries that religious conservatives are determined to reduce the personal liberty of women and are trying to impose strictly interpreted Islamic Sharia law as the sole source of the country’s post-Gadhafi constitution.
 
Libya's women exercised their power in the July, 2012 elections. Wil they now give up their new-found rights?Libya's women exercised their power in the July, 2012 elections. Wil they now give up their new-found rights?
x
Libya's women exercised their power in the July, 2012 elections. Wil they now give up their new-found rights?
Libya's women exercised their power in the July, 2012 elections. Wil they now give up their new-found rights?
“Fortunately, more and more we have fantastic Muslim scholars who understand what rights women have been given by Islam, and how like every other right, men are dominating and interpreting to fit their own agendas,” Allaghi said. “It is sad to see this progressive religion that gives great rights for women being misinterpreted.”
 
The grand mufti is Libya’s highest-ranking religious scholar and heads the Fatwa office (the Dar Al-Ifta) in the government that issues religious rulings about what is forbidden or permitted under Islam. The office’s rulings do not have the force of law, but can be influential, especially on political Islamists in the country’s General National Congress and in government.
 
Special priority for Islamic values
 
Ghariani insists that most Libyans want “special priority to be given to Islamic moral values in a manner that would preserve the nation’s Islamic identity and faith.”
 
Earlier this year, Ghariani urged lawmakers to make it illegal for Libyan women to marry foreigners – even foreign Muslims. And in March, he issued a toughly worded fatwa against the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women because of a report calling for greater action by governments to protect women from violence and gender discrimination.
 
The fatwa said the principles underpinning the U.N. report are “unjust and destructive” and clash with the Koran. It also accused the U.N. group of undermining the family structure as well as advocating immorality and indecency.
 
According to Ghariani’s open letter last week, “it is a well known fact that frequent mixing [of women] with men at the place of work and at schools/universities for long hours, makes it rather impossible for one to lower his/her gaze and protect ones chastity.”  He also warned of “increased reports of illegal abortions and operations of the restoring of virginity in and outside the country out of fear of shame.”

A devoutly Sunni Muslim country where religious observance underpins every social norm, Libya has been struggling with its Arab Spring transition to democracy.
 
Struggling with transition
 
Rebel leaders appointed Sheikh Sadeq al-Ghariani grand mufti during the uprising against Col. Gadhafi. He had held the post under Gadhafi as well.
 
Ghariani became a critic of Gadhafi as the rebellion gained momentum. When the Libyan despot was captured and slain last October, Ghariani ruled Gadhafi an "infidel” and unworthy of prayers.
 
While devout, most Libyans describe themselves as middle-of-the-road moderates.  In last July’s elections, candidates running under the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood were defeated by those running under a moderate coalition led by Mahmoud Jibril, a former Gaddafi-era planning minister. 
 
But since the elections there have been signs of a conservative upsurge as frustrations build over the slow pace of improvement in the lives of ordinary Libyans.
 
In February, Libya’s Supreme Court overturned a Gadhafi-era marriage law requiring a husband to secure the approval of his first wife before taking a second. The Gadhafi-era law stipulated that if the first wife refused, a husband had to go to court to seek permission to marry further wives.
 
Ghariani supported the Supreme Court’s ruling, arguing that the Koran sanctions polygamy and that a man should not have to ask his first wife because of a woman's "jealous nature."
 
Libya’s reformers have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as the mufti’s meddling in politics. But he is popular with a large percentage of the population. A weekly TV talk show he hosts commands a large audience and his Facebook Page with more than 70,000 followers is one of the most popular of Libyan public figures.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: detail-oriented from: US
April 30, 2013 7:45 AM
Your article states "... When the Libyan despot was captured and slain last October, Ghariani ruled...." but just to clarify, this event occurred in October of 2011, not last October of 2012.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid