Friday, November 11, 2011

Islamism is already calling the tune in Libya

David Gerbi dismantling the sealed entrance to the Dar al-Bishi synagogue in Tripoli

The attempt by Libyan Jew David Gerbi to reopen a synagogue in Tripoli was a violation of sharia law : 'dhimmis' are not allowed to restore or rebuild their houses of worship - just one example identified by the excellent Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi writing in the American Spectator of how Islamism is already becoming the dominant political force in the new Libya. But the non-Arab Berbers, who supported Gerbi, are not likely to take kindly to renewed repression of their identity and culture, a recipe for more internal strife:

Indeed, this trend should already have been clear in the treatment of David Gerbi, a Libyan Jew residing in Italy who returned to his ancestral homeland in the summer to fight alongside the rebels against Gaddafi. Yet when he tried to rebuild and reopen the abandoned and desolate synagogue in Tripoli, he faced death threats, intimidation and protests, such that he was eventually deported. The National Transitional Council (NTC) dismissed this matter as one of no importance.

In this context, it is noteworthy that the treatment of Gerbi was in accordance with traditional Islamic law's views on the status of dhimmis (i.e. Jews or Christians), for dhimmis are not allowed to reconstruct their buildings of worship or build new synagogues and churches.

Linked to the point about Islamic law are the recent announcements of Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman and de facto president of the NTC, that Sharia will be the "basic source" of all law in Libya. Coming to specifics, Abdul-Jalil declared that a Gaddafi-era law that banned polygamy would be lifted, saying that it was "contrary to Sharia and must be stopped."

The NTC chairman is of course correct that Sharia traditionally permits polygamy, being rooted in Quran 4:3, which allows a man to take as many as four wives. While the verse exhorts a man who has more than one wife to "deal justly" with all of them, on traditional interpretations this does not mean treating them equally. Rather, as Ibn Kathir puts it, doing so is only "recommended," and even without equal treatment, "there is no harm on him."

Abdul-Jalil further declared the need for future bank regulations to comply with Sharia, claiming that "interest creates disease and hatred among people." One should also compare his statements on the role of Sharia with the draft Constitution for the Libyan opposition, as reported on in late August. As Andrew Bostom notes, the most striking feature is the opening (Part 1, Article 1), which affirms that "Islam is the religion of the state, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia)."

The emphasis on the definite article before "principal source" is my own. It is an undeniably Islamist outlook. It must be contrasted with, for example, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc, which only views Sharia as a source of legislation, and not necessarily the main one.

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