Monday, 21 March 2011

Libya: Playing on religion

Alongside its strategy of employing brute military force, the regime has also been making efforts through other channels to resolve the situation. Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi is still trying to reach out to some of the eastern tribes, offering them incentives in a bid to neutralise them.

The regime is also playing on the religious sensibilities of the Libyans. It has made appeals to a number of influential Saudi Islamic scholars, including Sheikh Salman Al-Awda and Sheikh Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni, asking them to impress upon Libyans that it is Islamically unacceptable to rise up against one's rulers.

This was presumably a bid to capitalise on the popularity that Saif al-Islam gained by inviting figures such as these to Libya last year in sup¬port of his de-radicalisation initiative with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. However, while these scholars may have been willing to play ball where the de-radicalisation programme was concerned, they have unsurprisingly proved com¬pletely unwilling to back the regime in this way.

The last rather desperate tactic on this front was to wheel Sa'adi Qadhafi out on state television. Dressed in a long white jalaba and sporting a beard, surrounded by religious books and quot¬ing from the Qu'ran, Sa'adi explained to Libyans that they should not rise up against the state.

This is not quite as bizarre as it appears. Although Sa'adi is known these days primarily for his love of football and his penchant for parties and Hollywood actresses, he went through a religious phase in the 1990s, so much so that Qadhafi senior was reportedly worried about him. Therefore his being the one to try to tap into religious sensibilities was not so surprising. Such attempts, however, are unlikely to have cut much ice with the opposition.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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