The future of Libya

It’s been more than a week, and I still want to write something about Libya, but at least from everything I can see online, it looks like there is still a lot of contradictory information coming out of Libya.  And for that matter, the rest of North Africa.

So far, though, the results look promising, if not conclusive.  Considering the history of the North African countries throughout the last century, although there have been revolutions in the past – what seemed, at the time, to be promising changes in the nature of the country – these countries have never managed to veer too far from tyranny.

For me, personally, as an Islamic scholar, much of what I find the most interesting about the Arab spring and the subsequent six months has been the questions it has raised within Islam itself, about the nature of Islam and its modern practice.

Again, these conversations haven’t produced anything conclusive yet – and many of these conversations are bound to create controversy.  A quick comparison of the concerns of a community of women in Benghazi to the comments of the newly-appointed Minister of Religious Affairs makes these controversies pretty clear.  Without a doubt, the role of women will figure centrally in discussions of Islamic practice and thought, as it has throughout the Muslim world in recent years, and it’s definitely too early to know how these conversations will turn out.  But again, as someone who studies Islamic thought, I find it comforting to hear a Libyan Minister of Religious Affairs declare that “Gaddafi said he supported sharia law as set out in the Koran but he was a liar. He did things that were not part of sharia.”

The history of Islam has always been the history of two parallel, related, but distinct traditions – one, the development of the religion of Islam and the other, the development of the Islamic state, first the caliphate, then the Islamic principalities, and finally the history of the modern Middle East.  Much of the history of the twentieth century has focused on the Muslim states, and all too often the bastard tyrants who run them.  I have no idea what will happen to the state of Libya in the coming months and years, and I’m anxious to find out, but I’m also fascinated to see how the Arab spring affects the religion of Islam.

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About askanislamicist

I'm an academic who specializes in early Islamic history and the history of religious interactions, who, in her free time, enjoys shouting into the internet.
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One Response to The future of Libya

  1. amoralaroma says:

    (11:30 Friday morning December 17th, 2010) A 27 year old man named Mohamed Bouazizi, stands in the middle of the street in front of the governors office in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. He had been to the office earlier demanding to speak to the official about his maltreatment by local police and the subsequent confiscation of his scales without which he could not run his small fruit and vegatable business. The governor refused see him. Now an hour later, drivers are angrily blaring their horns at the man in the street. It was reported he shouted, “how do you expect me to make a living?” as he doused himself in gasoline from a can he carried then striking a match setting himself on fire. At the time no one could have guessed that this horrific act would lead to the overthrow of three military dictatorships, civil uprisings in eight more countries and strong shows of support from six more. The movement has been called Arab Spring, Youthquake and Arab Awakenings, fueled by revelations of government corruption from the Wikileaks cables and sustained by young, educated, computer savy people that are utilizing the instant feedback and access to news coverage on the social networks in ways their developers never dreamed of. I am keeping an eye on Libya as well. I think they have the most potential for a moderate government and (fingers crossed) the rights of women and their value to Islam beyond producing sons. (I know that sounded harsh but it’s true) I was happy to see Qatar extending a helping hand to Libya, hundreds of their military personnel volunteered to help bring down Gaddafi and they contributed $400 million to the cause as well as military training and help in planning and carrying out the attacks, They would be a pretty good role model for Libya not as liberal as the US would like but women can vote and hold high office, they have a relaxed dress code and better than average human rights scores and a tier-2 on human trafficing index. (Such a strange thing to have to keep track of.) Right now the best thing America can do for Libya is leave them the hell alone. They know we are here and willing to help but I think these folks can find there own way.

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