Muslim Brotherhood forms party in Libya
March 4, 2012
Tripoli, Libya – Just as the Arab Spring brought the Muslim Brotherhood into governments in Egypt and Tunisia, the Brotherhood has now unveiled its new party in Libya. The Islamist group declared the creation of the Justice and Development Party in the absence of laws laying out a formal process for the establishment of political parties.
As in other countries where the movement had for decades been repressed, the newly-created Al-Adala’a Wa Al-Beena (“Justice and Development Party”) will be led by a former political prisoner. Mohamed Hassan Sowan spent eight years in jail under the regime of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was slain after being captured by the rebels.
Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Ga’air said the group has representation in more than 18 cities across the country, more than 1,400 members attended a meeting in Tripoli on Friday to declare the formation of the party, and chose Sowan, a native of Misrata.
Supporters include wealthy businessmen who returned to the country after last year’s civil war ended, opening up civil society groups and charitable funds throughout the war-ravaged country. Ga’air said the group aims to establish a just and developed society based on religious values. “Our first main goal is to work on security and stability,” he said. “We are still a new founded party, but we will work on the basis of Islamic principles and that doesn’t mean the shallow meaning of religion most people think of like banning women from leaving home. This is not rational.” In October, Libya’s Western-backed rulers said that Islamic law would be the main source of legislation.
As in many of the other Arab nations in which governments were toppled during last year’s Arab Spring uprising, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered the most organized movement in Libya, in existence there since 1949. In Tunisia, where last year’s Jasmine Revolution ignited the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist political party is called Ennahda. The party’s secretary-general, Hamadi Jebali, who had spent 16 years behind bars, became the country’s first Prime Minister to follow the upheaval that toppled former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
When Egypt followed Tunisia with its Tahrir Square Revolution, known in Cairo as the January 25 Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist parties took control of the country’s parliament as well. The movement spawned two parties – it’s own “Freedom and Justice” party, which today controls the government, and the extreme Islamist “Al-Noor” party. Both together won the vast majority of seats in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections. A national presidential poll is now set for May.
The influence of the Brotherhood and related Islamist groups has surged following last year’s Arab Spring uprisings. They are key to the opposition in Yemen and are playing a role in Syria’s uprising. The Brotherhood’s offshoot, Hamas, rules the Gaza Strip. Their political arm in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front, is the country’s largest opposition group.
The pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, though, is not unified in its interpretation of Islamic law nor in how it should be applied. The groups also have various funding mechanisms. The Brotherhood also faces competition from other more hard-line Islamist groups including followers of the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam.
(Abd al Insaf)