Libya’s Islamists Ransack Mosque Graves in Power Struggle
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Libyan gunmen broke into the Saif al-Nasr mosque in Tripoli early on Nov. 8, smashed open a wooden sarcophagus and removed the remains of Saif al-Nasr, a scholar who died 155 years ago, and a former imam, Hammad Zwai.
“These bodies have been moved to a Muslim cemetery,” announced graffiti on the walls, explaining the disapproval by some Islamists of the Sufi Muslim tradition of burying scholars and teachers in mosques to honor them.
Muslims pushing for a strict intepretation of Islamic law are jostling for power in the chaos that has gripped Libya since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi, the third North African leader after those in Egypt and Tunisia to fall in the Arab Spring.
Last month protesters holding signs proclaiming “We Are Here to Purify the Honor of Tripoli” forced the early closure of the capital’s first fashion show since Qaddafi’s 42-year rule in Tripoli ended in August.
“I was scared; I wiped off my makeup and went home,” said Jasmin Abdul Aziz, a 22-year-old student who was one of five models at the event and once paraded a $5,000 dress studded with diamonds in a Qaddafi-era fashion show. “Before, we would wear shorts in the streets. Now, look around you, nobody does.”
The man responsible for maintaining security in the city is Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military Council and former Guantanamo Bay inmate. The council doesn’t regard the mosque break-ins as a crime and is awaiting the formation of a religious council to rule on the matter, according to his deputy, Mohammed Goaider.
‘Not A Crime’
“It is not a crime, but it is not the right time for the bodies to be removed,” Goaider said in an interview. If the religious council issues a fatwa, an Islamic religious edict, demanding the removal of the bodies, security units will do the work, he said.
Belhaj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which opposed Qaddafi in the 1990s and is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. After joining the Taliban in Aghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he was captured and held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 before being sent to Libya, where he spent seven years in a prison until his release last year.
Just to be clear; Belhaj was held at Guantanamo Bay.
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