Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC) leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil announced in mid-October 2011 that Islamic law (shariah) will be the basis for all future legislation in the country. The black flag of al-Qa’eda and jihad now flies over the courthouse in Benghazi, the town where the first sparks of the Libyan revolution ignited.
The men with the guns come from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a jihadist group accepted into the ranks of al-Qa’eda franchises in 2007 personally by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, the former LIFG commander who holds a university degree in civil engineering and who fought alongside the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and later returned there in the 1990s to join the Taliban, is the top rebel military commander in the country, with his headquarters in Tripoli.
For some reason that escapes me just now, in September 2011, the United Nations (UN) gave Libya’s General Assembly seat to this motley collection of shariah-adherent jihadis and the U.S. government formally recognized them as the legitimate government of Libya in July 2011. The image of the black flag of jihad flying alongside all the others outside the UN Headquarters in lower Manhattan or atop a flagpole in front of some Massachusetts Avenue Embassy in Washington, D.C. seems shocking, but maybe that’s just me.
What would Islamic law as the source of all legislation in a future Libya actually mean? Well, for starters, Abdul-Jalil has stated that polygamy immediately would be reinstated in Libyan law and interest on bank loans henceforth banned. The provisions of shariah will fall most harshly on women and girls, whose status under Islamic law is essentially that of property, owned and controlled by the men in their lives for the purpose of perpetuating the family’s male bloodline. In those places where shariah is most completely enforced (think Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen), the lives of women are the most restricted because preservation of family “honor” is dependent on male family members’ ability to control women to ensure her chastity, and thus the pure male bloodline of family.
Surely one of the most objectionable aspects of the way Islamic law treats women is their essential inequality with men. For instance, under Islamic law, the word of a woman is given only half the weight of a man’s word in a court of law. A woman inherits just one half what a male inherits. She may marry only one husband at a time, while he may marry up to four and consort with as many sex slaves as he wishes. So-called “temporary marriage” (legalized prostitution) is available to men but not women. Within a Muslim marriage, men are not only permitted, but under shariah, actually commanded, to beat wives from whom they merely fear disobedience. Marital rape does not exist as a legal concept under shariah because the Qur’an advises men they may demand sex from their wives “when and how” they will. A woman who claims rape must produce four male Muslim witnesses or face accusations of engaging in illicit sex, a charge that can bring public flogging or even the death sentence.
Divorce is much easier for a man as well, and after divorce, the woman is not entitled to any alimony and will lose custody of her children who are past the age of early childhood. Islamic law exacts no legal penalty of any parent or grandparent who kills their children (clearing the way for honor killings without legal consequences). Underage and forced marriage of young girls is justified by citations from both the Qur’an and the shariah. Female genital mutilation is either condoned or commanded by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence.
It will be recalled that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formally rejected by all members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Organization of Islamic Cooperation—OIC) with the Cairo Declaration of 1990. The Cairo Declaration affirms shariah as the sole source of law on human rights (Articles 24 and 25) for all Muslim countries. Libya is a signatory to that document, as are all 56 Muslim countries in the world (plus the Palestinians).
The so-called hudud punishments—amputations, flogging, stoning, even crucifixion—applied to apostates from Islam, adulterers, homosexuals, murderers (of Muslims), thieves, and those who commit “mischief in the land” are part of criminal law under shariah. Already, there are calls in Libya for strict implementation of these laws as well as the civil and family laws. The argument for hudud penalties derives from the meaning of the word itself in Arabic: limits. That is, the limits of behavior permitted under Islam by command of Allah. The term also refers to the “right of pure punishment” reserved to Allah and which no human may alter, ameliorate, or deny.
How far will Libya’s new legal code go? How strictly will the jihadi rebels now in control of the country enforce Islamic law? Much remains to be seen, of course, but it is pretty clear by now that the trends do not look good for anything children of the Enlightenment would remotely recognize as equal, liberal, moderate, pluralist, or tolerant. By their own public statements, Libya’s civilian and military leadership are in alignment on the agenda to enforce shariah.
Sheikh Ali Salabi
Additionally, the country’s most prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ali Salabi, a Muslim Brotherhood figure who is a close associate of Yousuf al-Qaradawi, himself considered the spiritual leader of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), is also known as a strong supporter of Abdul-Jalil, Belhaj, and the jihadist fighters. His role in the new Libya is not yet clear, but like al-Qaradawi and the Ayatollah Khomeini before them, he speaks in the veiled language of taqiyya (deceit, dissimulation) about the role of democracy, Islam, and shariah in the future of his country. That should be enough to worry us all.
Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues.