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Libya’s Revolution, Gaddafi’s Body and Sharia Law: A New Dawn?

Posted on the 26 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Libya’s revolution, Gaddafi’s body and Sharia law: A new dawn?

Mustafa Abdul Jalil Photocredit:

All revolutions are tricky businesses: anyone remember the French and the Russian? The repercussions of the latter are still, arguably, running strong; as for the French, well their insistence on secularism stems directly from their revolution over two centuries ago.

So we can’t expect Libya’s troubles to end quickly. The Christian Science Monitor reports that, as in Egypt and Tunisia, Muslim extremists have emerged in Libya as the largest group.  Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the head of the Transitional National Council) claimed in a statement in Benghazi that Sharia law would be the main source of legislation for Libya’s new laws – which would mean, for instance, legalising polygamy. There is also rising pressure to investigate the circumstances of the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – was he caught in the crossfire, or was he brutally executed?

His body, displayed publicly, provided a focus for many Libyans, who were queuing in droves to take pictures of the slain tyrant, prompting Ben Okri to say that the “new Libya begins with the manner in which it defuses the symbol of the energy of Gaddafi. If it fails, he could do even more in death than he did in life,” in The Times. Gaddafi’s now been buried, with his son Mutassim, in a secret place in the desert. More questions have arisen over the deaths of 53 Gaddafi loyalists, who were found bound up and shot dead. Is this really a dark start to Libya’s new day?

“I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims,” said Abdul-Jalil, quoted on The Christian Science Monitor.

Looking on the darker side. As Peter Hoskin on The Spectator’s Coffeehouse blog said, what’s coming out of Libya is “mostly grim”. Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s claim is “shocking” – “polygamous marriage”, for instance, was entirely not what the country’s “Facebook revolutionaries” wanted; but then, after all, Libya is a Muslim country. He’s tried to persuade the West that he means that Sharia will only inform, rather than impose upon, Libya’s laws; by talking about it, he might even be appeasing the country’s extremists. But for now, pessimism reigns.

“This doesn’t mean that Libya will become a theocracy. There is no chance of that whatsoever. Libya will be a civic state, a democratic state and, in principle, its laws will not contradict democracy,” said Guma al-Gamaty, a London-based spokesman for the National Transitional Council, quoted on The Christian Science Monitor.

Things getting even darker. And it has been a dark start, agreed Michael Burleigh in The Daily Mail. The 53 slain Gaddafi loyalists were wounded men taken out of a hospital; walls nearby were covered in graffiti belonging to gangs from Misurata – an area of Libya that the TNC has no control over. This raises important questions about the powers of armed militia. And that’s not to mention the sharia law question. Libyan women are outraged by Abdul Jalil’s suggestion – and in any case, he has no authority to introduce such measures, since they would have to be voted on after a new constitution has been installed. Libya needs proper political groups – but middle class groups have a disadvantage against the mosques. What a shame that these problems were not fully discussed – though they were known about – before we intervened in Libya.

“Let the dust of the desert sweep over the hole where he was buried. Then the name ‘Muammar’ can be forgotten and our children will never know of this time,” a young Libyan was quoted in The Times.

Libya must move to the light. It’s right, said The Times’ leader, that Gaddafi’s grave will not be marked. But accounts of his death are “deeply disturbing” – the fact that he was reportedly “sodomised with a knife” has already caused “revulsion” even in Libya. The perpetrators of such atrocities must be brought to account. Nothing justifies meeting barbarity with barbarity. It may seem a waste of time to investigate, but Libyans must understand that from now on new standards apply, and apply across the board, underlining the “reconciliation” and “reconstruction” that might make Libya a “beacon”. But if they get mired in corruption, they might long for a return to the “old stability”. “The cycle of vengeance must be halted”. Gaddafi’s death was “squalid” – the new Libya deserves a better start.

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