Meet Libya’s New Islamist Boss

In this week’s issue of The Australian, Sheikh Hamza Abu Fas, Libya’s new Minister for Religious Affairs, gave Westerners a taste of the “free and democratic” that NATO had been fighting for.

The law that allowed a first wife to veto marriage to a second wife will be overturned. “The woman is not equal to the man in the body,” explained Sheikh Hamza.

Thieves will have their hands chopped off: “If this happens it will only happen once because other people will not want it to happen again and will not commit theft,” said the good Sheikh.

Islamic banking will be the only kind of banking in Libya. “In the future, we hope all banks will be Islamic,” Sheikh Hamza said. “The Islamic bank is best for all people. All Europeans and Australian people will realize the best solution for banks is Islamic banks.”

While the Australian article is careful to refer to Sheikh Hamza Abu Fas as a professor rather than a sheikh and emphasizes his title as “Minister for Religious Affairs,”

he is actually a closer counterpart to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. His role is to promote Islamist rule, not to blandly manage religious affairs.

In his message to the “People of Libya” on September 18th, 2011, Sheikh Hamza was already at it, writing, “It is known that the Libyan people, all Muslims are eager to apply the law of Islam, of which they were deprived of by the tyrant [Kaddafi], who even tried hard to discredit the law.”

How extreme a figure is Sheikh Hamza? In Feb 2010, he participated in a symposium on “Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People” held under the auspices of Sheikh Salman bin Fahd al-Awda, secretary of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Qaradawi’s organization, and a member of the European Council for Fatwa, another Qaradawi group.

Sheikh Hamza has participated in sessions of the European Council for Fatwa and in Muslim World League events. The Muslim World League is another Muslim Brotherhood group for the promotion of Sharia and is funded by Saudi Arabia.

Al-Awda is a Wahhabi revivalist who had been considered too extreme even by Saudi standards and was arrested and incarcerated during the nineties for extremist activities.

He was reportedly one of the figures who inspired Osama Bin-Laden to take up arms and has figured in Gitmo reports as encouraging detainees to seek out terrorist training camps.

Also present at the symposium were leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is the local affiliate of Al-Qaeda. As well as Sheikh Osama Salabi, the Brotherhood’s man in Benghazi, who also plays a leading role in Sharia finance.

The Islamic banks that Sheikh Hamza is talking up will mean money for the local Brotherhood power brokers giving them a permanent power base.

“Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People” was supposed to be the LIFG’s means of reconciling with Kaddafi and transitioning to political activism over violent terrorism.

While Western diplomats celebrated it as a victory for moderate Islam, it was actually the LIFG being guided by leading Brotherhood figures to follow the Muslim Brotherhood’s path of moving from violent terrorism to a popular front overthrow of the government.

The Brotherhood in Egypt managed to overthrow Mubarak, and the LIFG did the same in Libya, backed by American and European military intervention.

Had the Brotherhood or LIFG tried to go it alone, they never would have received Western backing, but by forming coalitions with more liberal figures they secured Western support for their revolutions.

“Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Verification, and Judgment of People,” which Sheikh Hamza enthusiastically endorsed, was not quite what the West thought it was. It was a theocratic document that affirmed the supremacy of Sharia and of Islamic scholars as the proper interpreters of Sharia.

The LIFG appeared to suspend its local conflict with Kaddafi, but it did not suspend the global conflict with the West– and two years later it provided the warm bodies for the revolt against Kaddafi.Kaddafi and the West were tricked into a Muslim Brotherhood ploy that offered up a “kinder, gentler Jihad,”

freed hundreds of LIFG terrorists from prison and put the movement on a path to seizing power through a coalition revolt. The same strategy behind successful Arab Spring revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.

The appointment of Sheikh Hamza is the opening round of the Islamization of Libya. Hamza enjoys the confidence of the LIFG and of many of the old Kaddafi associates who are still running the country. That makes him the ideal intermediary for fully Islamizing Libya without setting off too many alarm bells.

Laws on the status of women are an easy target, being unpopular with Muslim men, particularly tribal leaders who ignore them anyway. Islamic corporal punishments will spread terror under the guise of Sharia, serving the same function that they did after the Iranian revolution.

And Islamic banks will build up the wealth of Brotherhood members to give them the privileged position that they enjoy in Egypt and throughout much of the Middle East.

Sheikh Hamza’s bland title of Minister of Religious Affairs belies his real power in a state where religious law is the law of the land. Libyan Islamists understand that the United States is already wary of the presence of the LIFG and that Western support and money is crucial to getting the country back on its feet again.

Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they are willing to be the power behind the throne so long as the throne is built on Islamic law.

“Gaddafi could change laws at whim, cherry-picking elements of sharia law. Professor Fas’s new role will include ensuring schools teach a ‘correct interpretation’ of sharia law.” The Australian’s article absurdly treats this as a positive development. What this actually means is that Sheikh Hamza Abu Fas will ensure that schools teach the interpretation of Islamic law approved of by the Islamists and he has already begun cracking the whip.

The supremacy of Islamic law means that those who interpret it also control the society that follows it. With Hamza in the driver’s seat, the future of Libya belongs to the Islamists.