Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What about the Jihadists in Libya? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

It goes without saying that the fall of the Gaddafi regime is a wonderful piece of news. This strange man offered nothing to his people, the Arabs, or the entire world, except pure evil.

The dangers and eccentricities of Gaddafi are indisputable. The best thing for Libya is to remove this “Green Man” from its present and future for good. However, we must not ignore the fact that Gaddafi has not left the scene entirely.

In my estimation, it is a risk to decisively assert that Gaddafi is totally out of the picture. Indeed, he has tasted defeat and has been forced to flee Tripoli like an outlaw. But the man is still dangerous with a lot of money and maybe even hidden weapons in his possession, not to mention his remaining supporters and fighters.

Nevertheless, Gaddafi’s privileges will be rendered useless if Libya’s revolutionaries can expertly and proficiently handle the current phase, and steer Libya’s ship towards safer shores.

Here an issue ought to be raised, although I am aware that many of those who have rejoiced over Gaddafi’s defeat – myself included – will be somewhat reluctant to approach this matter at the current moment.

The issue relates to the role of fundamentalist fighters, or “Jihadists”, in Libya’s war of liberation. Abdelhakim Belhadj has recently been revealed to be one of the “stars” of Libya’s rebel forces – a former Mujahideen youth who made his mark in Afghanistan, alongside other familiar Jihadist battlefields. Belhadj is the commander of the Libyan rebel Tripoli Military Council, yet ironically, this Jihadist “military” commander was in prison a few months ago. In fact, it was Saif al-Islam Gaddafi who secured his release under an initiative launched in 2007, to turn over a new leaf with Jihadist Islamists in Libya.

Indeed, it has been said that Abdelhakim Belhadj has now joined the “national” Libyan revolutionary project, and that he is not a Jihadist in the same manner as the “Libyan Islamic Fighting Group”, a religious organization similar to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group. This could be true with regards to Abdelhakim, and maybe tens or hundreds of fighters like him, but what about the rest of the Libyan Jihadists?

This is a somewhat disturbing yet necessary question, especially after the Chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, acknowledged the presence of extremist religious groups among the ranks of Libyan fighters, in the wake of Tripoli’s fall. I don’t think that “Sheikh” Abdul Jalil meant to tarnish the image of the Libyan Revolution by saying that. Actually, his courage in admitting such a fact is a great testament to him.

The problem in our Arab media and culture stems from partisan viewpoints. Either you support a revolution faithfully and categorically, or attack it emphatically and skeptically, without asking critical questions about the key details.

In my estimation, there is a dangerous fundamentalist presence in the depths of the Libyan revolution, and this is something we should take heed of now. This presence could turn into a source of danger for Libya’s future, in the days to come. These radicals could easily turn their guns from the Bab al-Aziziya compound towards the Libyan National Transitional Council, targeting it for being “secular” and an ally of the “Crusaders” (NATO). These radicals may seek to establish a Shariaa law state in Libya, and unleash their Jihad across North Africa. I do not believe I am exaggerating here. We have learnt from past years that the dreams of fundamentalists have no limits, and that chaos is the best environment for them to flourish.

Thus, from now on we say: The Libyan Jihadists may prove to be a source of danger to the state in the near future, unless members of the National Transitional Council manage to rescue Libya at this critical juncture. We all hope the Council can succeed in leading Libya through this dark tunnel.

Finally, I am aware that Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam previously drew attention to the potential danger of militant fundamentalists in Libya. This was certainly a sound warning, even if it was declared at the time to strengthen the Gaddafi grip on power, and now we are restating it out of fear for Libya