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Islamists’ growing sway raises questions for Libya

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Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick
New York Times
Sept 15, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — In the emerging post-Gadhafi Libya, the most influential politician may well be Ali Sallabi, who has no formal title but commands broad respect as an Islamic scholar and populist orator who was instrumental in leading the mass uprising.

The most powerful military leader is now Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of a hard-line group once believed to be aligned with al-Qaida.

The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Moammar Gadhafi’s autocracy. The U.S. and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.

But as in Egypt and Tunisia, the latest upheaval of the Arab Spring deposed a dictator who had suppressed hard-core Islamists, and there are some worrisome signs about what kind of government will follow. It is far from clear where Libya will end up on a spectrum of possibilities that range from the Turkish model of democratic pluralism to the muddle of Egypt to, in the worst case, the theocracy of Shiite Iran or Sunni models like the Taliban or even al-Qaida.

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This article was posted: Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 3:38 am





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