The undertones of the Libyan revolt are tinged with religious fundamentalism, rather than liberal democracy. by Andy Stone
Saturday, March 19, 2011
As the commitment of French, British, Danish, Canadian and US military assets to Libya draws near, the fundamental question of the rebels' identity has not yet been seriously addressed. The international face of the revolt are former Qaddafi officials such as Abdul Jalil. It is, however, also clear that the conflict has been started and sustained by a mass uprising. (It is not a coup d'etat and most of the state apparatus has remained loyal.) Behind it all, who are the people on the ground, and what motivated them to revolt?
The NCLO web site (Arabic) carries a document (Arabic; Google Cache; legible in automatic translation) dated February 15th (the day the protests began), which clearly spells out NCLO's objections to Qaddafi's rule. The main points of "Qaddafi: Islam's no. 1 enemy" are as follows:
Qaddafi has closed an Islamic university and a seminary, has forbidden some Islamist publications, and has thrown thousands of Islamist activists into jail.
Qaddafi has urged to put the Qur'an on the shelf, as no longer appropriate for this age.
Qaddafi has made fun of the Islamic veil, calling it a "rag" and a "tent".
Qaddafi has dared to say that Christians and Jews should be allowed to visit Mecca.
(The last claim involves a curious episode. At one point, Qaddafi declared himself a follower of the "Qur'an alone" movement, which rejects orthodox Muslim punishments, like stoning for adultery, death penalty for homosexuals etc. This got him into some serious trouble. An international committee of scholars went to discuss the issue with Qaddafi. After being told that "if he did not repent and take back his statement, he would fall under the law of renegades and infidels [...] which would force true Muslims to kill him", Qaddafi "repented and took back his statement".)
None of this is surprising. The leaked State Department memos describe Eastern Libya (2008) as an area of fervent Islamic sentiment, where "a number of Libyans who had fought and in some cases undergone 'religious and ideological training' in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the West Bank in the late 1970's and early 1980's had returned [...] in the mid to late 1980's". There they engaged into "a deliberate, coordinated campaign to propagate more conservative iterations of Islam, in part to prepare the ground for the eventual overthrow by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of Muammar Qadhafi's regime, which is 'hated' by conservative Islamists". While Qaddafi's position was perceived to be strong, the East Libyans sent jihadis to Iraq, where "fighting against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq represented a way for frustrated young radicals to strike a blow against both Qadhafi and against his perceived American backers".
It is these same religiously and ideologically trained East Libyans who are now armed and arrayed against Qaddafi. Qaddafi's claim that all his opponents are members of Al Qaeda is overblown, but also not very far off, in regards to their sympathies. Anyone claiming that the Eastern Libyans are standing for secular, liberal values needs to overcome a huge burden of proof. First, what is the social basis of such a movement, when neutral observers have been characterizing East Libya as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism? Second, if the revolt has started on religious grounds, when and how exactly has it radically changed its character?
These hard facts are not counter-acted by Abdul Jalil's statements of liberal, democratic purpose. As head of the National Transitional Council, he is the West's favorite partner in dialogue (and recognized by France as Libya's legitimate head of state). His reliability and control are, however, questionable. As Qaddafi's Minister of Justice until last month, Abdul Jalil's democratic credentials are dubious; he has not participated in the initiation of the revolt, has latched onto it when it seemed likely to succeed, and his organization's control over the rebel forces is unproven. Overall, the participation of former Qaddafi officials is no reason to assume that the character and aims of a revolt that started on fundamentalist religious principles have changed to liberal, democratic ones.
In conclusion, the Western leaders seem to be rushing to replace an already bad regime with one that is likely to be even worse. The French embarrassment with getting the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts wrong (and subsequent change of foreign ministers) and the British embarrassment with close ties to the Qaddafi regime (including the award of a PhD from the prestigious London School of Economics to Qaddafi's son) have caused these two countries to jump in, trying to remedy their perceived previous failings. However, lack of cool reasoning and ignorance of the facts on the ground are only likely to make the remedy (should it succeed) worse than the disease.
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I oppose the UN actions in Libya, on the grounds that the U.S. should not interfere in the affairs of other countries. That said, I would caution those who rush to judgment based on the information in this article.
Almost no one involved, including the U.N. and the U.S., denies that there is an Islamic fundamentalist presence in eastern Libya. However, there is a great deal of question as to how influential that presence is. This article, like so many that spread fear about Islamic fundamentalism, would have us believe that their influence is on the rise in Libya, but many on the ground, including intelligence personnel, often suggest that the opposite is true.
The truth is that we simply don't know one way or another whether Islamic fundamentalism is truly the driving force in Libya. And bear in mind...Khadaffi is a known liar and murderer himself. He doesn't hesitate to spread his own propaganda at the drop of a hat. He'll say anything in order to retain power, and his voice is the loudest at claiming that the revolution is backed by fundamentalist Islamists. That should tell you something. When a known liar keeps claiming the same thing you're claiming, you should doubt your own claim!
Posted By: Andrew Stone
Date: March 30, 2011 08:23:47 PM
That's just wishful thinking. Extremist Islamism has been growing in Libya for the past 20 years and won't just go away all of a sudden. Even Obama and the NATO supreme commander for Europe have acknowledged in the last few days that intelligence indicates Al Qaeda presence among the rebels. And we're not even talking about Al Qaeda, but about extremist Islamists who are not necessarily connected organizationally with Bin Laden, but share a common destructive ideology.
Two weeks later, I continue to stand by the main points of the article. If an uprising begins in an intensely Islamist region, with a call to action declaring the country's ruler a religious heretic, then it is probably an uprising powered by religious extremists, whom the Western world should not support.
A foreign policy based on fear is self-defeating. Again, no one doubts the presence of extremists. The question is: are they gaining in strength? Once again, no one knows. Claiming that we do know when we really don't is fear-mongering. This is not wishful thinking. It's realism.
In case you hadn't noticed, our country is so deeply in debt that it is nearing bankruptcy, in large part due to a militaristic, fear-mongering foreign policy that has flooded our books with red ink. Certainly, it is not the only reason for our debt-troubles, but there can be no doubt that it has played a huge role. It arose strictly out of fear-mongering and speculation.
Now we're entrenched in a war in Afghanistan which was originally supposed to be how we were going to catch Bin Laden. Now, no one even talks about catching him anymore, but the cost is soaring. $390 billion spent so far. It was also supposed to eradicate the Taliban, but they are no closer to being wiped out than before. This war is expected to go on for generations, according to Bush, so at the rate we're going, it will likely cost tens of trillions of dollars by the time we're done and who knows how many lives.
The truly sad part is that if we were to eliminate our debt-based monetary system, most of the rationale for the terrorists to come after us would disappear, because that's the system that funds the military industrial complex and the neo-conservative agenda that feeds on all the fear you want us to continue generating.
Posted By: James Edwards
Date: March 31, 2011 12:28:57 AM
This article by Stone deals with cultural realities on the ground and makes for very interesting reading. That they cannot readily be found elsewhere means a great deal. I thank you for it.
In addition to the strange rush by the Western powers to get involved in Libya, it reinforces the smell of coordinated opportunism that I detect.
We have a problem on this planet. It is found in the huge, curious morphing animal we call West. Comments like Walt's 'This article, like so many that spread fear about Islamic fundamentalism---' is amazingly irrelevant to the degree of raising the fear of an agenda.
Frankly the likes of Gadhafi and such as Saddam Hussein are clearly far less dangerous than this West not only internationally but as history clearly indicates also within the countries concerned. Stone's article and his posts here indicate specific realities and references. It is very useful.
Posted By: taximeter
Date: March 31, 2011 10:19:10 PM
Senior Libyan rebel “officers” sold Hizballah and Hamas thousands of chemical shells from the stocks of mustard and nerve gas that fell into rebel hands when they overran Muammar Qaddafi’s military facilities in and around Benghazi. The rebels offloaded at least 2,000 artillery shells carrying mustard gas and 1,200 nerve gas shells for cash payment amounting to several million dollars. Tehran threw its support behind the anti-Qaddafi rebels because of this unique opportunity to get hold of the Libyan ruler’s stock of poison gas and arm Hizballah and Hamas with unconventional weapons without Iran being implicated in the transaction.
Comments like Walt's 'This article, like so many that spread fear about Islamic fundamentalism---' is amazingly irrelevant to the degree of raising the fear of an agenda.
Really? Then I have a question for you. What's the purpose behind being so concerned about Islamic fundamentalism in Libya in an article like this, if not to argue for intervention in a futile attempt to stop it?
If all we want to do is to argue against intervention in Libya, all we have to say is that intervention is always a bad idea, regardless of the local level of fanaticism. We, as a country, can't financially afford to do it, particularly with the coming rise in inflation combined with decrepit economic conditions and a soaring U.S. budget. There's no need to emphasize Islamic fundamentalism at all.
Posted By: Andrew Stone
Date: April 1, 2011 11:40:42 AM
I've spent several hours researching this article, because I felt that the whole truth about the situation in Libya was not widely available. You, on the other hand, seem to not even have read the article properly (I'm arguing for intervention in a futile attempt to stop Islamic fundamentalism - really?!). I resent your outlandish insinuations that I have a hidden agenda.
If you think that intervention is never justified, that's no reason to stop other people from considering the implications of ongoing or impending interventions. And if you're mainly concerned about debt and monetary issues that's great, but other people also have a right to be concerned about other issues besides those two - including religious extremism. So please don't hijack unrelated threads of discussion.
Posted By: William H.Depperman
Date: April 20, 2011 07:21:56 PM
“Facebook” is part of the U.S. capitalist dictatorship's media and is playing a crucial role in the Final Stage of Capitalism: Permanent War and State Terrorism. Here is how they work it: The U.S. capitalist dictatorship uses FACEBOOK to organize the opposition in these countries which supports the U.S. in its wars and invasions, the destruction of the planet Earth, etc., while making all sorts of false promises to these "protesters." In the countries which they actually intend to invade and carry out a CoupD’etat, rather than just carry out a REGIME CHANGE, they also organize and arm a tiny “Rebel” army of PRO-U.S. FANATICS, a group WHICH DOES NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT THE ACTUAL MAJORITY OPINION OF THE COUNTRY TARGETED FOR INVASION. Then the U.S.-led media and FACEBOOK and TWITTER, etc. falsely announce: “Large (small!) anti-government protests have escalated into a civil war!” This is followed by the “Weapons of M*** Destruction” style Big Lie Campaign claiming that Libya or Syria is “targeting innocent civilians and using anti-personnel cluster bombs, etc.,” But actually Libya and Syria are defending themselves against only a small and numerically insignificant but HIGHLY ORGANIZED group of protestors/“rebels” armed directly or indirectly by the U.S./NATO and do not use anti-personnel weapons which are the exclusive province of the U.S./NATO!+ After bribing the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China and whomever else is necessary such as half of the scurrilous “Arab League,” the capitalist dictatorship announce a “No-Fly Zone” to begin the invasion and attempted CoupD’etat. Examples are Libya and now Syria, which the capitalists intend to invade momentarily! This is why TIME magazine made the kid-CEO of "FACEBOOK" the "Man of the Year." (!) Yahoo and numerous other websites all controlled by the United States government have blocked this writer from making any comments whatsoever! Phony U.S. Internet “freedom!” So-called “Facebook” will no longer post ANY of the writings of this author and has ENTIRELY DELETED The Materialist Analysis of Theoretical Astrophysics from his profile or "wall" or whatever they call it because the word has caught on with young physics students that they are being manipulated and fed a load of crap for political/religious reasons that have NOTHING to with science and that there is in fact no “dark energy,” no “dark matter,” no “parallel universes,” no “worm holes” and NO “god.” “Facebook” is partners in m*** murder and disinformation and Big Lie Orwellian 1984 “Newspeak” with Obama/NATO. “Facebook” is TOTAL SCUM so do not be deceived by all the ballyhoo accorded this NEW WEAPON OF CAPITALISM-IMPERIALISM. “Facebook” is a Fascist U.S. WEAPON! “Facebook” deliberately ***ists the U.S. capitalist dictatorship, which is deliberately sabotaging the U.S. economy in order to be in accordance with Globalism, which is defined as worldwide competition among the capitalist exploiters for the lowest salaried workers. The U.S. capitalist dictatorship is waging war NOT just against multiple countries around the world one after the other, but ALSO is waging a genuine war of extermination and population reduction against its own population, its own people (!), through a campaign of DELIBERATE ECONOMIC SABOTAGE of the U.S. and world economy, biological war and psychological warfare and has now lost all legitimacy to rule and all right to sovereignty here in the United States! OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD! Capitalism Offers a World with No Future! Only Socialism can provide jobs! We need a Socialist Revolution here in the United States!
William H. Depperman, Coordinator
United Front Against Racism
New York, N.Y.
Revised April 20, 2011
Posted By: FromChina
Date: May 9, 2011 08:51:50 AM
Thanks Mr. Stone for the good article!
I'm from China. A lot of Chinese people are excited about the event that is happening in Libya. They take it as a symbol of fighting for freedom and democratic, which have been much suppressed in China also. But they probably are too eager to be rational and respectful for facts.
I've translated this article and posted it on Chinese forums. I hope more and more of my fellow countrymen come to their senses and be realistic about it.
The truth may be ugly, but we have to face it!
Posted By: FromChina
Date: May 9, 2011 09:02:32 AM
And a word for Walt:
I don't agree with you on that "This article, like so many that spread fear about Islamic fundamentalism---" statement either. This article is a rational analysis of FACTs, it is a logical work of the current politics. You can point out it is illlogical or it is not true, and give your reason. I don't see what fear it is spreading.
I do fear Islamic fundamentalism and this article is a good one for not letting the fear come true.