The world has watched intently over the past few months as predominantly Muslim countries from Egypt to Tunisia to Libya have overthrown long-time dictators. In the wake of these revolutions, much has been made about the dawn of democracy across the Arabic world. But is this really what is happening in the Middle East?
One needs only look as far as to who is moving in to fill those voids of power to find the answer. The Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic movement, responded to the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi by calling on Libyans to unite with full reconciliation between all factions, opposition parties, and tribes. The Brotherhood issued the following statement:
State institutions should be formed and a contemporary constitution be drafted. The Libyans should work towards developing the country and working towards the well-being of all with complete disregard to personal interests. Reciprocated respect between all factions is necessary and recognizing Islamic and democratic independence is a must if Libya is to progress. Furthermore all resources should be channeled to serve the Libyans as a whole.
The statement concluded with a call for Libyans to not allow any oppressor to take reign or rule over them again, regardless of the consequences. Some have gone so far as to compare such statements with our Declaration of Independence. President Obama, though taking a back seat to France and England in the overthrow of Gadhafi, called it a great moment in the advancement of democracy across the region.
While the death of Muammar Gadhafi may have signaled the end to his regime, the deeper reality is that President Obama’s Libyan intervention has only traded one problem for a far more perilous one. This danger is highlighted by the announcement by Libya’s de facto leader that the new Libya would be an Islamist state.
During a ceremony in the Libyan city of Benghazi Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), laid to rest any doubts about what the new direction for Libya would be. “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government,” he said. “The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.” According Jalil, Libya’s new constitution will include the lifting of restrictions on the number of women Libyan men can marry and the establishment of Islamic banks.
This should come as no surprise, since the Obama administration gave its support to Libyan rebel forces that included a collection of Islamist militants, al-Qaeda insurgents, and criminals. Once again a vacuum of power has been left as rifts are already appearing between the rebels’ ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) and radical Islamists.
Islamists are fervently opposed to efforts by secularist leaders within the NTC, led by current interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, to establish a secular, pro-Western government, mainly because of ties to the old Gadhafi regime.
The one group that seems to be gelling into a cohesive political power is a coalition of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda terrorists. Exiled members of the Muslim Brotherhood, banned by Gadhafi, are returning to Libya and flexing their political muscles. Along with those returning are thousands of members scattered across Libya, with chapters in almost every town and village.
Prime Minister Jibril has said scheduling any constitutional or presidential elections cannot be held until all the armed rebel militias disarm themselves voluntarily. But the 140 or so armed tribes of the country show no such intention. Many of the tribes in Libya’s central and western regions are unhappy at the dominant role the eastern-based Benghazi tribes played in the NTC and either stayed out of the conflict or took the side of pro-Gadhafi forces.
The Warfallah, the largest Libyan tribe with more than one million people, was one of the strongest of Gadhafi loyalists during the recent civil war. Therefore, Gadhafi may be gone, but tens of thousands of his loyalists remain. Most of these profited greatly during his reign and will be rightfully hesitant to disarm themselves even as they face retribution from Libyan rebels bent on settling scores.
Libyan rebels are now engaged in their own, sometimes even more brutal, atrocities. Amnesty International reports massacres of Libyan civilians in pro-Gadhafi neighborhoods and systematic aggression against dark-skinned Libyan civilians and African migrant workers.
No one should be surprised by this turn of events in Libya, as they had already begun to play out in Egypt. Not long after Mubarak’s ouster, assaults on Christians brought home a bleak reality: The departure of authoritarian rule empowered Islamist fundamentalists, known in Egypt as Salafis, who have special resentment for Christians.
Though the Muslim Brotherhood has long been Egypt’s best-organized opposition movement, the Salafis are relatively new on the political scene. They are ultraconservatives, close to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, and even more radical than the Brotherhood. Their goal is to return to the strictness of Islam’s early days and do away with anything they deem “un-Islamic.” Most notably, they opposed the treatment of non-Muslims as citizens with equal rights as well as all forms of Western cultural influence.
A disturbing pattern has emerged that the Western media, and many political leaders seem unwilling to acknowledge. Over and over, the West has enabled radical factions to overthrow despots, while all the while paving the way for even more despotic regimes. Jimmy Carter did it with Iran in the 70s, and George Bush and Barak Obama have done it again over this decade.
Iran and Iraq, bitter enemies only a generation ago, are moving closer and closer to each other. One can only wonder what the next decade holds as The Muslim Brotherhood continues to tighten its grip on the minds and hearts of Arabic people. One also has to wonder how long we in the West will pretend something good is happening there.
©2011 Off the Grid News