The international coalition against ISIS expressed concern about the group’s “growing influence” in Libya during a meeting in Rome yesterday. However, it did not announce any imminent military action in the country and focused on supporting the political process instead.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry sparked religious controversy on the sidelines of the meeting by describing the followers of ISIS as “apostates who have hijacked a great religion”. A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) official told Asharq Al-Awsat that NATO is ready to provide assistance to Libya to reform its defence and security institutions provided that the national unity government agrees to this. The official who wishes to remain anonymous added that the only solution to the Libyan crisis is political and Libyan and considers ISIS’ expansion to be a stark reminder to Libyans that they need to put their differences aside.
Despite the fact that America grants religious freedom to its citizens and does not consider “apostasy” a crime, Kerry chose to use this description to refute the allegations of extremists who say that they are enforcing Islamic law.
Kerry stressed that supporters of ISIS are “in fact nothing more than a mix of murderers, kidnappers, criminals, thugs and reckless smugglers and thieves”. He was quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) as saying “And they are also above all apostates, people who have hijacked a great religion and lie about its real meaning and lie about its purpose and deceive people in order to fight for their purposes.”