The Libyan Revolution: Democracy or ‘Purity of Islam’?

Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s announcement last month that Islamic sharia would form the basic source of legislation in the new Libya, and that all laws contradicting the sharia were immediately null and void, came as a surprise for Western observers. Given that the chair of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) wears the sign of his piety on his forehead in the form of the darkened “prayer bump” or zabibah created through vigorous prostration during prayer, it probably should not have.

Western observers had always been determined to see the anti-Qaddafi rebellion in Libya as a “democracy movement.” They were encouraged to do so by English-language NTC statements replete with soothing — if not indeed downright soporific — boilerplate that had undoubtedly been composed with the aid of Western advisers or PR agencies. But from the very start of the rebellion, clear evidence was available that the most fervent opponents of Qaddafi rejected his rule not as undemocratic, but, above all, as un-Islamic.

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