Islamic Sharia law will be the ‘basic source’ of legislation in free Libya, its new leader has proclaimed.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil’s vision has come as a shock to some of the millions of citizens still celebrating their liberty from decades of tyranny.
The chairman of the National Transitional Council declared that a future parliament would have an ‘Islamist tint’ and any existing laws contradicting the teachings of Islam would be ‘nullified’.
Under the new regime, men will even be permitted to take up to four wives, he suggested.
The sudden lurch by a country seen as very moderate towards Islamic extremism will alarm many in the West who supported the ousting of Colonel Gaddafi.
It could also prove deeply embarrassing to David Cameron as he ordered the £1billion mission to back the rebels despite advice from all sides urging caution.
Yesterday ordinary Libyans expressed their surprise at the turn of events.
Mohammed Bodima, said: ‘We have fought and spilled blood for democracy. What is this about sharia law?’ The father-of-two used to live in Catford, south-east London, but now resides in Benghazi, birthplace of the revolution.
He added: ‘If we are to have sharia, it must be voted on by the population. That would be democracy.’
Tripoli resident Abdul Azzud said: ‘I am very worried. Nobody realised this is what we would get.
‘They are going in the wrong direction if they impose sharia. It is extremely concerning.’ After making his surprise announcement at a liberation ceremony in Benghazi, Mr Abdul-Jalil stepped from the podium to kneel and offer a prayer of thanks.
Later he was at pains to insist Libya would not drift towards religious extremism.
‘I want to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims,’ he said. And he said the proposed constitution was ‘temporary’ and would be put to a referendum.
But in his earlier speech, he announced: ‘Any law that violates sharia is null and void legally,’ citing a marriage law passed by Gaddafi imposing restrictions on polygamy.
The Muslim holy book, the Koran, allows men to take up to four wives.
‘The law of divorce and marriage, this law is contrary to sharia and it is stopped,’ Mr Abdul-Jalil declared.
His remarks were condemned by Adelrahman al-Shatr, a founder of the new centre-right Party of National Solidarity.
‘By abolishing the marriage law, women lose the right to keep the family home if they divorce,’ he said. ‘It is a disaster for Libyan women.
‘It is a subject that should be discussed with the political groups and the Libyan people. These declarations create pain and bitterness among women.’
A 40-year-old Libyan woman called Rim added: ‘It is shocking and insulting to state, after thousands of Libyans have paid for freedom with their lives, that the priority is to allow men to marry in secret.
‘We did not slay Goliath so that we now live under the Inquisition.’
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