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 Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
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 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 Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid