08/31/2011, 00.00
LIBYA
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Sharia begins to cast its shadow on the new democratic Libya

An early draft of Libya’s new constitution is inspired by Islamic law. The NTC rejects the idea of foreign peacekeepers voiced by the United Nations. The presence of Jihadis among the rebels is raising disquieting questions.
Tripoli (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – Libya after Gaddafi could slide towards fundamentalism. Observers note that the National Transitional Council (NTC) plans to make the country an Islamic state based on Sharia. The danger is that greater because the NTC has also rejected the presence of foreign forces on Libyan soil, including United Nation peacekeepers. For some analysts, “rebels” belong to extremist Muslim groups whose goal is an Islamic state, not democracy and human rights.

Article 1 of the NTC’s draft constitution says, “Libya is an independent Democratic state wherein the people are the source of authorities [. . .] Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

Like other Muslim countries, Article 1 goes on to say, “The State shall guarantee for non-Moslems the freedom of practising religious rights and shall guarantee respect for their systems of personal status.”

Although it is just a draft, many analysts are worried by the document’s contradictions, hiding Sharia behind terms dear to Western culture like “freedom” and “rights”.

For many observers, such a text represents a step back compared to Gaddafi who had been more open to other religions and had moved away from strict interpretations of Islam.

Despite much talk about democracy and pressing demands of money for the new Libya, the NTC does not want foreign forces in Libya to maintain security ahead of elections. In fact, today the rebel council said emphatically no to foreign troops, even United Nations peacekeepers.

Yet, Ian Martin, special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the United Nations could organise an international force of police trainers and monitors to help the country. At present, "There is no electoral machinery, no electoral commission, no history of political parties," the UN official explained.

Making a democratic future that more unlikely is the presence of Jihadist groups sent in by some NATO countries, most notably the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an extremist group led by Abdelhakim Belhaj, a Libyan Berber with a past among the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan. After his capture in 2003, he became a collaborator of the Libyan regime and now is serving the Americans.

In the meantime, fighting in Sirte continues with Gaddafi loyalists. After offering them the possibility of surrendering peacefully, the NTC issued an ultimatum against the tribes still loyal to Libya’s former strongman. They have until 1 September to give up their weapons and surrender.

Also today, thousands of people took part in celebrations marking the end of Ramadan in Tripoli’s heavily patrolled, recently re-named Martyrs’ Square.

In his traditional sermon for the feast of Eid al Fitr, a local imam called on believers to remember those who died sacrificing their life to rid the country of Gaddafi. (S.C.)
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