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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora