Libyan Muslim Brotherhood Wants Clarification Of New Law Banning Religious Parties

Reuters is reporting on statements by the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood that the National Transitional Council needs to clarify a new law banning the formation of political parties based on religion. According to the report:

TRIPOLI | Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:02pm EDT (Reuters) – Libya, preparing for elections in June, has banned parties based on religion, tribe or ethnicity, the government said on Wednesday, and a new Islamist party viewed as a leading contender signaled it would challenge the decision. National Transitional Council spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy said the council passed the law governing the formation of political parties on Tuesday evening. ‘Parties are not allowed to be based on religion or ethnicity or tribe,’ he told Reuters. He did not make clear how this would affect a political party formed in March by Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. The new party was expected to make a strong showing in the election, the first since last year’s overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed popular uprising. The head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Development Party said the NTC needed to make it clearer what it meant by banning religious parties. He said this would cause controversy in conservative Libya, whose population of six million is made up almost entirely of Sunni Muslims.’This kind of clause is only useful in countries where there exists many religions, not in Libya where most people are religious Muslims,’ Sawan told Reuters. ’This law needs to be reviewed by the NTC and if it’s not changed, we would have to protest it.’ Libya’s NTC has already indicated that the country will be run in accordance with sharia, though the exact place of Islamic law in the legal system will be settled only once a new constitution is written after elections. Political analysts have said the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to emerge as Libya’s most organized political force and an influential player in the oil-exporting state where Islamists, like all dissidents, were harshly suppressed during the 42 years of Qaddafi’s dictatorial rule. Islamists have performed strongly in post-uprising elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco since October and they are also likely to do well in Libya, a socially conservative country where alcohol was already banned before the 2011 revolution.

A post from March discussed the announcement by the Libyan Brotherhood that it had formed a political party.

post from September 2011 reported on what the New York times called the “growing influence of Islamists in Libya”, identifying Qatari Muslim Brotherhood figure Ali Sallabi (aka Ali Salabi), already known to be the Revolution’s “spiritual leader and a close associate of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, as well as for the first time Abel al-Rajazk Abu Hajar who is said to lead the Tripoli Municipal Governing Council and is described as a “Muslim Brotherhood figure.” An earlier post had reported on Ali Sallabi and his association with Qaradawi. A post from December 2011 reported that a delegation of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), headed by Qaradawi, was on a four-day visit to Libya at the invitation of the Transitional Council. Continue reading

Women as peacemakers in Sudan – challenges and opportunities

South Kordofan Rebel Group

With Sudan and South Sudan on the verge of all-out war, many local peacebuilding organizations are utilising the potential of women to act as peacemakers between communities in an attempt to thwart further violence.

By Louise Hogan

Less than a year after declaring independence, South Sudan is engaged in low-level violence with its northern neighbour, the Republic of Sudan. Aerial bombings and military raids by both sides are a daily occurrence. South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) completely shut down oil production, in an attempt to deny Khartoum revenue, which has deprived the emerging nation of 71% of its GDP and prevented it from developing its basic infrastructure. Once again, all out war in Sudan seems depressingly inevitable.

In South Kordofan, a mineral rich border province which remains under Khartoum’s control but whose inhabitants’ identity politically and culturally with South Sudan, violent conflict is a daily occurrence. With a population of approximately two million people and vast oil and mineral reserves, South Kordofan is a valuable asset. For this reason, Khartoum refused to relinquish it during the peace negotiations which led to the signing in 2005 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the eventual independence of South Sudan, despite its inhabitants waging a two decade guerrilla insurgency for independence.

Years of conflict and insecurity have, unsurprisingly, taken a heavy toll on a community whose culture and identity is rooted in tradition and the local environment. With an estimated fifty different ethnic groups resident in South Kordofan, ethnic tensions were also exacerbated by the wider conflict, and often erupted into violence. Ethnic groups who had respected each other’s customs when living side-by-side, found themselves thrust upon each other in haphazard, over-crowded refugee camps, and cultural tensions often graduated into violent outbreaks.

Women as peacemakers

This situation led a group of Sudanese women from South Kordofan to form an organisation called Ru’ya (Arabic for ‘Vision’). Recognising the important role women could play as peacemakers both within and between communities, Ru’ya initiated a simple project they christened Women Solidarity Groups. Based on the premise that a lack of cultural understanding and an archaic patriarchal system which placed undue precedence on pride were causing much of the conflict, the basic idea was simple but effective. By regularly meeting to share coffee, food and experiences, women from various backgrounds could learn about each other’s traditions, beliefs and practices and form bonds across cultural divides. These groups organically graduated into something more than simple support groups – some started their own micro-financing programmes; others served as peacemakers between previously warring communities. When a ceasefire was called and communities began to return home, the project spread from the refugee camps to newly-resettled villages and communities. Having established a method of gaining influence in a notoriously male-dominated society, women were reluctant to give it up.

A local micro-financing scheme established by one Solidarity Group

From peacebuilding to development

In the villages, the focus of these groups often moved from peacebuilding to development. In one particularly successful example, women in a Solidarity Group in Mirri Barra, a rocky outpost west of Kadugli, pursued their male family members to allow four illiterate women from their group to travel to India to study solar technology at the Barefoot College. After months of relentless lobbying from local women, with support from Ru’ya staff, the village elders eventually gave permission for the women to travel for the six month training. The women returned equipped with the skills and knowledge to install solar electricity in an astonishing ninety nine homes in the village.

Continue reading