Libya disavows extreme Islam as world looks on

Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:38am GMT

By Mohammed Abbas

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - When it comes to Islam, moderation is the keyword in Libya, a country at pains assure the world that it will not become a centre of extremism now that anti-Islamist leader Muammar Gaddafi has gone.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York by al Qaeda, Libya's new de-facto president made a point of addressing the future of Islam in his country, which many abroad fear could take a militant turn.

"Ninety percent of us are moderate Muslims ... five percent are on the right and left sides," said Mustafa Abdel Jalil late on Saturday, in his first public appearance in Tripoli since it fell to anti-Gaddafi fighters on August 23.

He urged unity and asked those with more marginal views on religion to restrict their sparring to debate.

Many abroad point to the surge of violent Islamists in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but so far, Islam appears likely to have a more benign influence in Libya.

Long oppressed Islamic groups and institutions are quietly renewing themselves and swelling their ranks, but they say they have little political ambition for now, and are more interested in furthering national unity and Islamic values.

"We don't want power or position or politics," said Mohammed Hammadi, a heavily bearded Salafist, a sect whose adherents follow what they see as a purer form of Islam as practiced by the Prophet Mohammad in the seventh century.

"Look, if you're going to drink, drink at home, don't let it affect us," said Mustapha al-Kikili, another bearded Salafist standing outside a Tripoli mosque.   Continued...

An anti-Gaddafi fighter mans a checkpoint north of the besieged city of Bani Walid September 14, 2011.  REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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