What next for Libya?

So the Guardian are leading today with ‘Only 100 Loyalists left fighting as Libya war reaches its endgame’. But what happens next?

We all remember the elation of Egyptian civilians at the success of the revolution. Yet within months sectarian violence has shattered any image of a post-revolution utopia. Worse still is the fractured nature of the conflict. Not only is the Muslim majority clashing with the Coptic Christian minority, but Coptic Christians are blaming the security forces for provoking the bloody violence at last Sunday’s Coptic Christian protest against a Muslim attack on a Christian church, which led to 25 fatalities. Worryingly, then, sectarian divisions have already spilled over into ‘the worst violence since Mubarak was ousted’, which in turn has impacted badly upon relations between security forces and civilians. All this, of course, could well lead to further, dangerous escalation of conflict.

And so to Libya. The role of Islam in post-Gaddafi Libya remains uncertain, and tensions between secularists and Islamists are already surfacing within the NTC. On Monday, Libyan Muslim cleric Sheik Ali Al-Salabi called for moderate Islam to play a role in the governance of Libya. Yet his message was not met with whole-hearted support; some argued that Islam should have no role in politics. Katerina Nikolas, writing for the citizen journalism-sponsoring Digital Journal aptly summarises the dilemma:

The future political face of Libya will be determined by either secularism of Islamism. The NTC has said the new Libya will be based on sharia law. However Salabi’s calls for a moderate Islam may simply be a token gesture as leaders including Belhadj have long wanted a caliphate state. One of the two main aims of the LIFG have been achieved through civil war, the overthrow of Gaddafi. Their second aim of turning Libya into an Islamic caliphate may become the next reality, despite Salabi’s moderate words.

Click here to read the full article.

The trouble does not end with religion, however. Long-standing regional and tribal differences may endure in a post-Gaddafi Libya, and could threaten to exacerbate any outbreak of conflict between secularists and Islamists. Thomas Basille of Fox News argues (though not altogether convincingly) that Libya’s future hinges upon the provision of essential public services and facilities – clean water, electricity, food, security, etc – since, he claims ‘people want and need the same things’, whether in the US, Iraq, or Libya. Although this is perhaps a crude simplification of the distinct differences between the social, religious and political environment in the US, Iraq and Libya respectively, his point still stands: the National Transitional Council simply cannot afford to allow any ideological or religious differences to take priority in the earliest stages of post-Gaddafi Libya, since this will endanger the lives and livelihoods of all those who fought for the country’s revolution.

Whether or not Libya can dust itself off and march onwards to a united and peaceful future remains to be seen. It even remains unclear how the spoils of war will be shared between the NATO countries that have intervened in Libya, and what form the future relationship between Libya, Europe and the US will take. I just hope the Arab Spring does not darken as the winter draws in.

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