Two years after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libyans are frustrated over the chaotic state of their country, where militias rule the streets and hardcore Islamists are pushing a rigid form of sharia law.
In a sign of just how rigid and authoritarian Libya has become, four foreigners were arrested and charged with being missionaries and distributing Christian literature, which is a charge that could carry the death penalty. A Swedish-American, Egyptian, South African and South Korean were arrested in Benghazi by Libya’s preventative security unit and accused of printing and distributing bible pamphlets in the city.
Security official Hussein Bin Hmeid told Reuters, “Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100% Muslim country, and this kind of action affects our national security.”
Libya is in a state of unrest as various forces are grappling to see who will fill the power vacuum after Gadhafi’s downfall. Many Libyans blame the 200-member General National Congress, elected in July 2012, for the lack of progress. The body was supposed to form a panel of experts to draft a constitution, but that has yet to happen. Congress just last week finally reached a decision on how to form the constitutional panel: the public will elect 20 experts in each of the country’s three regions.
“We need to put something together that will contain the rights of all the Libyans, which we know are of diverse needs,” Guimaa Al-Shawesh, a member of Congress, recently told the BBC.
But there is serious concern, particularly among the women, about the role that sharia law will play in the constitution — echoing concerns throughout North Africa and Arab states about the growth of Islamists. At a recent meeting of the Nisaa Quadimoon (Women Are Coming) Foundation at a cafe in Tripoli, a mix of veiled and unveiled women expressed their fears and frustrations.
“We are working on the equality of men and women in the new constitution,” lawyer Hannan al-Nuwesri said, according to the BBC.
“Political Islam surfaced — there is a worry… the conservative forces are in the National Congress, and it is affecting decision-making,” said fellow member Madiha al-Naas, who specializes in gender equality issues.