Ed Husain

The Arab Street

Husain examines politics, society, and radicalism in the greater Middle East.

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A NATO-backed Islamist State in Libya?

by Ed Husain

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil (center) chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), stands during the national anthem as the NTC announce the liberation of Libya in Benghazi on October 23, 2011 (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

It took Libya’s current leader three full days to appear in public after Qaddafi’s killing. He was scheduled at a press conference on Thursday morning—he appeared on Sunday. Then, rather than speak in Tripoli, he addressed a mass gathering in Benghazi, annoying vast swaths of the Libyan population who are still unsure as to why they would recognize his National Transitional Council (NTC). They complain about the domination of the NTC by people from Benghazi. As though these complications were not enough for a divided people, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil then opened a premature, ill-conceived public schism between Libya’s secularists and Islamists by declaring that Libya is an “Islamic state.”

Fortunately, among Muslim activists and Arabs in particular, there is no real consensus on what an Islamic state really means. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan recently spoke in Egypt about how a secular state was the best model for Muslims. Tunisia’s Rashid Ghannoushi has made bold statements about the caliphate (or Islamic state) being a chapter of the Muslim past. But it is unclear whether Libya will opt for the Turkish or Tunisian wisdom. Read more »