Magharebia (Washington DC)

17 December 2013

Libya Debates Sharia

Tripoli — Libya's General National Congress (GNC) voted earlier this month to make Sharia a "source of legislation", worrying moderate Libyans who fear the law's impact.

"The congress issued a unanimous statement in this regard confirming that Sharia is the source of legislation in Libya while all other provisions that violate it are void," GNC spokesman Omar Humaidan said after the law was passed December 4th.

"The development of legislation complying with Islamic law and the formation of a committee to review existing laws and amend the ones that violate Islamic law were discussed too," he added.

Justice Minister Salah Marghani and the GNC formed a committee that includes representatives from the Fatwa institution, the religious ministry and the judiciary to review existing laws and amend those that violate Islamic Sharia.

"The congress supports this committee, follows its work and will responds to its recommendations, God willing," Marghani said.

In a statement, the GNC explained that since "it was elected by Muslim Libyans", it "starts from the conviction that state institutions can only be built" on Islamic law.

Abdullah Zarti, an international law student, explained, "It is a primary and major source which means it is likely that there will be secondary sources in the absence of an explicit provision in the Sharia. This enhances the possibilities of covering issues wide and diverse."

For his part, engineer Mohamed al-Shaibani, director of a private company, said that those sowing fear and terror in the country were "showing that they are doing acts not provided for by the Sharia".

"On the whole, our religion is tolerant," he told Magharebia.

Meanwhile, some groups were surprised by this move since Libyans are mostly followers of the moderate Maliki School of law.

From Benghazi, Najwa Chilmani addressed those demanding the application of Sharia law: "You who demand Sharia, do not possess even a little bit of true Sharia in your transactions. Your unbelief is obvious in your vengefulness and in shedding the blood of Muslim Libyans."

Others said they feared the application of Sharia could negatively impact women's rights.

"The Qur'an did justice to women and mentioned them in more than one Qur'anic verse," said Ahlam Ben Taboun, a civil society activist from Tripoli. "God devoted also an entire sura to women but did not devote one in his book to men. I mean, there is no fear of the real Islam, the tolerant and pure, which is based on cooperation and tolerance among human beings."

"However, the Sharia of the graduates of Kandahar and Afghanistan does not represent me," she added.

Benghazi high school teacher Nusseibeh Salem said, "Islam is no longer one but many - the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood, the salafi Islam, the moderate Islam and obscurantist Islam, etc."

Libya's future depends on legislation by whichever stream reaches power, he explained.

Abuses could follow the triumph of obscurantist Islam, he added, "but equity is possible if moderation wins".

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