Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Libya: Expel the Salafis! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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After Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen, it is now Libya’s turn as many people have begun to warn against the Salafi scarecrow in the midst of what is known as the “Arab Spring”. Some people are doing so after having misinterpreted the situation, some are doing so with ill intentions, and others are doing so in connection with some country or other, whose objectives are clearly known. Even if it goes against all logic and reality, what is most important for these people at the end of the day is to get rid of those they consider bogeymen, yet this is wrong; they should not be expelled from the political process.

What is worse is the blatant mix up between Salafism – meaning adhering to the practice of the Prophet, his Companions and followers – and al-Qaeda, a group of outsiders who have deviated from the right path that is pursued by most Muslims. The difference between the two is clear, but there are those who cloud the issue so that they can reach their political or even sectarian goals, such as the State of Law Coalition headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki warned against “handing over the reins of power to the Salafi movement and al-Qaeda in some Arab countries that have witnessed changes to their governments in the wake of popular revolutions.” According to MP Batoul Faruq, from the State of Law Coalition, “Most of those grouping under the banner of change in Arab countries that witnessed uprisings and revolutions are from the Salafi movement and al-Qaeda. We fear that the alternative for these countries will be negative and harmful to Iraq.” Could there be any form of sectarian incitement and lies worse than this?

The Salafis, in Libya and elsewhere, have the right just like everybody else from different spectrums of society to play a role in building their new state. They must accept a civil state that respects all religions and sects, and this is a condition for building any state. If they agree to this then how can anyone seek to exclude an important part of the equation, just because it differs from their approach, or because their analysis is based on negative and concealed intentions?

Moreover, exaggerating the capabilities of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and not al-Qaeda who the group had renounced, will not make it something to be feared, which is what some people want. In addition to the division that it was subjected to over the past few years, the historical leadership of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, represented by its leader Abu Abdullah al Sadeq and its theorist Abu Mundhir al Saadi, renounced violence a long time ago within the framework of its well-known revisions. In fact observers estimate the number of Libyan militants under the influence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan to be no more than 30. All that can be said is that the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has been weakened, and it does not pose a threat to the forthcoming Libyan state, unlike al-Qaeda in Maghreb that threatens all the countries in the region as a whole, and is wrongfully linked to the Salafis in Libya.

Therefore no rational person can stand up for a nation’s right to establish itself in the way everybody dreams about, whilst at the same time drawing a bleak picture for certain components within the nation. Rights and duties are equal for all segments of society, and when society understands this equation it cannot take away anyone’s rights. Even if we go back in recent history we can see that all political trends have made their own disastrous mistakes, but do we stigmatize them because of an affiliation to a name or belief?

Everybody must be given a chance to build their country, and if their political views are proven not to be extreme then their participation in the political process is a matter guaranteed by all constitutions across the world. If they are found to be extremists, then the political process itself will reject them. However, the suggestion that some segments should be excluded at the very beginning jeopardises the entire democratic process, and this might even provoke further extremism and aggravation, which everyone can do without.