Benghazi — In the absence of state institutions, Qur'anic schools in Libya are left to operate on their own. But residents of Benghazi are expressing alarm at the growing number of radical preachers and their impact on kids.
With the infusion of global extremists who flocked to Libya after the February 17th revolution, citizens fear some schools are being used as a cover to instil radical ideology in youths.
Libyan Observatory for Human Rights President Abdul Nasser Ahmed said that there was "no monitoring on Qur'anic schools these days due to the weakness of state institutions and absence of the Ministry of Religious Endowments' oversight role".
"Therefore, each Islamic group, whether extremist or moderate, controls a number of these Qur'anic schools and uses them to promote their ideology, which undoubtedly includes extremist, takfirist ideology, such as Ansar al-Sharia," Ahmed explained.
Samia Mahmoud, a 33-year-old employee at Benghazi educational inspection office, said that "some schools present an ideological change and instil extremist ideas that have nothing to do with Islam."
"They are corrupt, but claim to be pious people. Be careful; children are your responsibility; don't throw them into an abyss. They're young and don't know right from wrong," Mahmoud cautioned.
Fathi Abdelmounaim, 39, a host for al-Manara TV station, said, "In fact, these Qur'anic schools create a problem: they don't just help children memorise the Qur'an, but some of them spread extremist ideology and promote leaflets and pamphlets through which they spread the culture of hatred."
"I'm talking about a personal experience, as I removed my young brother from one of such schools when I noticed that the sheikh was instilling extremism in his head," Abdelmounaim added.
"At these mosques, they now say that democracy is kufr," Abdelmounaim said. "There's a video of a group of Libyans going to a Saudi sheikh who told them that 'the General National Congress (GNC) is infidel; don't take part in the election because it's kufr; do you want to be like Jews and Christians?' When they said to him that Libya doesn't have Jews or Christians, he said there was the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are more evil."
Those people are in charge at mosques, "which are now beyond the government's control", Abdelmounaim added. "There's a list at the Ministry of Religious Endowments about these mosques."
In his turn, Ali Massoud, 27, an employee at the civil registry office, said, "Some of the things happening at those Qur'anic schools at the hands of those who call themselves sheikhs make bodies shiver."
"The Qur'anic school project without monitoring from the state and family is very dangerous for children... We need to know what advice and lessons are given to our children." 37-year-old oilfield worker Mohamed Attia told Magharebia.
"However, the scariest thing about them is that they instil extremist ideology in children's minds through some of the extremists who take Islam as a cover," Attia said. "Therefore, the state and families must closely monitor these Qur'anic schools."
Amina Ezzedine, 26, a teacher, relayed her own personal story of religious extremism.
"I'll tell you about my shock in my own neighbour who left her car at the airport with a message saying goodbye to her family. After a short search, the mother discovered that her 33-year-old daughter, who is a doctor, has gone to Syria via Turkey for jihad. This is what she said in her message to her family," she recounted.
"I was very surprised with the thought of that educated young girl and her belief in jihad annikah," she said.