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Reaction to Abdul Jalil’s Libya Freedom Speech (ref to Islamic Sharia State) Hypocritical?


Today Libya announced its liberty: Liberty from oppression, liberty from the despot Gaddafi.

Yet, based on the reaction from some quarters to a few lines in NTC chairman and Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil’s speech, one could almost feel a tinge of regret. What did Abdul Jalil exactly say so horrible?

“anything contradicting the shari’ah is void, he gave two examples: the law forbidding polygamy, and laws allowing riba (interest)” [approx translation]

Some tweeps were in uproar. Self-declared liberal secularist, Sultan Al Qassemi, a popular and in-the-know tweep from UAE (must-follow) was quick to scoff at Abdul-Jalil:

“The Islamic Republic of Libya” brought to you by NATO.

Shrewd politicking from Mustafa Abdul Jalil to announce to thousands of freedom fighters that their quota of women just quadrupled.

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The first line seems to indicate that Sultan was looking for NATO to bring something else. Was NATO there to facilitate freedom or did Sultan expect NATO to facilitate (impose) Western ideals as well? And in his second tweet, Sultan seems to have missed the fact that Abdul Jalil didn’t need to announce anything that Allah hadn’t already given the fighters 1400 years ago.

The editor of Gulf News (major newspaper in the Middle East), Abdul Hamid, similarly chimed in, “Mustafa Abdul Jalil has just given an evidence to all world that Arab uprising will end up to be Islamic states.” By tying the end result of revolution to state of affairs that Abdul Hamid shows obvious distate to, he is really insiniuating that it was better for the uprising not to occur at all. Better Gaddafi, Ben Ali, Mubarak, fill-in-the-blanks than God forbid an nation whose citizens CHOOSE to live under Islam?

Habiba Hamid, seasoned writer and journalist at UAE’s the National newspaper, tweeted, “No Muslim actor can claim a monopoly on Islam/Islamic thought. Any that does hijacks it”. Yet, she seems to have missed the fact that this is not the first time that Abdul Jalil has said that the new Libya will be based on shariah (yes that would be Islamic law- link below). So, what was so different this time? That he actually gave examples of what shariah might involve? Perhaps we should thank him for making clear what he is saying instead of assuming what he is not.

This blog article by Blake Hounshell sums up the sentiment of the do-gooders only when it suits their end-goals. Hounshell, normally an astute and fair-minded writer, falls prey to what I call “shariah-scare”. Just like the “ban-the-shariah” movement in the USA is based on hearsay and lack of any fundamental evidence, similarly this “shariah-scare” is based on few facts and much fear. The facts, as we have it, currently include three words: “shariah”, “polygamy” and “interest”. All of which one way or the other incorporated in most Muslim countries, even in current favorite Arab Muslim nation, Qatar.

Reading Hounshell’s blog-post and his composition of revolution timeline, from how Abdul Jalil “sold the revolution” to how undercurrents of Islam were ignored, to how the issue has come roaring back, his intended thesis is quite clear. Libyans threw a fake bait at the West, and the West swallowed it all, bait and rod.

Hounshell then asks “If Libyans want to outlaw interest and bring back polygamy, fine, but let them do so in a democratic and transparent way”

But herein lies the inherent hypocrisy of those raising these alarm-bells, especially not befitting a seasoned writer such as Hounshell. First of all, this is not the first time that Abdul Jalil has talked about laws being based on shariah. But more importantly, in a speech on September 13 this year, Abdul Jalil talked about Libya being a democratic, civil society.

SO, the question for Hounshell and others who now suddenly want Abdul Jalil to wait for Libyans to vote is this: Why didn’t you the raise the same alarm-bells and questions when Abdul Jalil wanted to build a democratic society? In other words, why is it okay for Abdul Jalil to promote democracy without asking the people, but it is not okay for him to promote shariah without asking the people? Shouldn’t what is good for the goose be good for the gander too?

Real supporters of freedom are content that Libyans have gotten rid of a despot, and will be able to make their own mind. Abdul Jalil, as the current leader of Libyans can feel the pulse of his people and has the full right to express what that pulse might be. Those who are opposed to hearing him talk about Islamic laws should also be opposed of him talking about secularism, democracy or any other form of government or ideology. And if they don’t, and they won’t, then that smacks of double-standards, not befitting of sincerity to the nation of Libya or for journalists, to their profession.


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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").



  1. Ahsan (Cartoon Muslim)

    October 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    May Allah guide them to establish a government that is pleasing to Allah.

    I think sometimes even Muslims get a little on edge when they hear about someone establishing sharia in a country, because we’ve seen places where that has been misused. I think that makes it harder to explain to people why sharia makes sense.

  2. Andreas Moser

    October 23, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    Is this what Libyans fought for? Is this what Libyans died for? Is this what NATO bombed for? => Polygamy, purportedly for the sake of women:

  3. Hassan

    October 23, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    Hmm, was this anything had to do with NATO/West helping the rebels:

    • Ahsan (Cartoon Muslim)

      October 24, 2011 at 12:15 AM

      woooow! I want to hear more about this. Wonder how much of a role it actually played in these invasions.

    • Ahsan Sayed

      October 25, 2011 at 3:45 AM

      This sounds extremely dubious. There is very little facts presented in the video. I think we should be careful to not be swayed by pseudo-factual conspiracy theories. They only serve to detract us.

  4. Brother

    October 23, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Whats up with banning interest on loans of a certain amount and allowing for other amounts? Sounds like pick and choose sharia like it is in Saudi Arabia.

  5. chuck hird

    October 23, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Is sharia law compatible with democracy?

    • Greg Abdul

      October 24, 2011 at 1:46 AM

      some of us know that voting and every qualified person having a voice in civic affairs are basic elements of a model Muslim society and that Islamic ideas were stolen from the Quran and inserted into Western documents as inventions. Thomas Jefferson studied Islam and then coincidentally decided to make freedom of religion a part of his new government, at a time when the 13 colonies were separate religious states with no religious freedom. Just like he slept with the black woman and they denied it. Jefferson got religious freedom from the Quran and it will take them another 200 years to admit it. Sharia is already in the US Constitution.

      The short answer to your question is YES.

  6. Bigmo

    October 24, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    Shariah law was invented by the Abbasid. Its based on the “Sunnah”. It has nothing to do with the Koran.

  7. MR

    October 24, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    America, NATO, Europe and the rest of the World that is afraid of Sharia need to realize that almost all Muslim countries use the Sharia as a basis to develop their system of law and doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be an Islamic State.

    In fact America has allowed the Iraqi government to use Sharia in creating their constitution and developing their law system. I find it hypocritical for any American to complain about Libya when the American soldiers technically assisted Iraqis in establishing Sharia as a foundation for Iraqi law.

    Education is power people! Read! Don’t judge Sharia by what you hear on the news. Pick up the Quran and read it. I hear this new modern translation is great:

    • amad

      October 24, 2011 at 1:36 AM

      Good comment MR…
      what is really problematic to me is that the guys who are shouting the hardest on this issue are not uneducated, yet they are singing the same song as Islamophobes in this issue.

  8. Greg Abdul

    October 24, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    as salaam alaikum,

    May Allah guide the people of Libya and give them laws that further Allah’s deen, Islam. Allah please make them Muslims that are pleasing to you and who become a model Islamic state. Insha Allah they will put their old leader in the ground according to the sharia and leave his punishment to Allah. And I pray that going forward they have the best Muslims for leaders, who are compassionate for their people and emphasize the good over the bad.


  9. Lasantha Pethiyagoda

    October 24, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    It would be interesting to research why there was a ‘revolution” in Libya that is reported by western media as simply an extension of the “Arab Spring”, which it was clearly not! Unlike in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen etc, the Libyan “uprising” was not spontaneous and peaceful; it did not start in the capital of Tripoli; (rather in the oil rich region of Benghazi). Most interestingly, those powerful countries acting under the rubric of “NATO” went out of its way to bomb and kill more than 60,000 Libyan citizens, make about 30% of Libyans unemployed, destroy its impressive social welfare system (unlike any other in Africa) and generally sow the seeds of civil war. By any account, NATO’s motives never were, and never will be, in the least “humanitarian” or borne out of compassion for fellow humanity that suffers. The Internet is a good source for independent information on how Libya became the top country in Africa in terms of the UN Human Development Index (HDI) from being at the bottom when Gaddafi came to power. It is a known fact that America destroys every country it engages in, if it happens to be resource-rich, offer political advantage or is situated strategically (in a military sense). All reasonable and decent countries must set aside their differences and work to ensure that Libya does not become another Iraq or Afghanistan (both those countries are now completely destroyed after a decade of mayhem). The “Occupy Wall Street” movement should hopefully grow exponentially into a magnitude that will topple the world’s most repulsive criminals housed in the US corporate sector and give the wealth of the planet back to its people, who will all have a much better life without misery and poverty that these criminals had imposed on them for many generations..

    • yasmine

      October 24, 2011 at 6:58 PM

      Actually – initially the Libyan revolution was spontaneous and peaceful like the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, it became armed because of the brutal response of the regime – firing live rounds on unarmed protesters and beseiging and bombing their own cities.

      Furthermore – I’m not sure what you are implying by the comment that it “started in oil rich Benghazi” – the people in Benghazi have long opposed Gadaffi and have been traditionally hard for him to control, hence he neglected them financially, as can be witnessed by the run down state of the city itself. This more than “oil” (which is a red herring) is why it started in the East, but I might add quickly spread to the rest of Libya.

  10. Mamluke

    October 24, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    There was no interest in Libya when Gaddafi was in charge, I bet there will be now, no matter what the Nato Transitional Council say.

    Libya will be Islamic like Saudi, applying Shariah on things that are not important and ignoring the important things.

    • Amir (MR)

      October 24, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      I woulnd’t say that Sharia has things that are not important but I get what you are saying. A better way would be that the government would use Sharia to exert a popular favor amongst the people but also not use it when it would threaten their power.

  11. UmmJassim_

    October 24, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    how sad after months of bloody fights for freedom the bottom line is still ‘nowhere to go’ .


    October 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    First of all I’d like to say Amin to GregAbdul’s dua and cosign Lesantha Pethiyagoda’s statement above. I pray that any state that claims to want Shariah doesn’t just implement the laws in a piecemeal fashion (allowing for some laws governing the social element of society to be implemented while allowing the political and economic system to remains unIslamic). For examples we know of of at least one Muslim country that calls itself an “Islamic state” that implements some aspects of shariah (mainly around social norms pertaining to marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc). At the same time their political system is haraam (by allowing for a kingdom to exist) and they allow their rich natural resources to be extracted by foreign countries and divide up the spoils between the rulers and their cronies instead of using the money from those resources for the common good (taking care of the poor and destitute both inside and outside the country, industrialize the nation thereby decreasing the unemployment rate, improve the educational and health care systems within the country, give effective dawah to all citizens through both the media and educational systems, etc). In other words their economic system doesn’t recognize the law from Shariah that natural resources are deemed public property, meaning they cannot be privatized and thus exploited by a capitalist few. So I pray LIbya and other countries undergoing revolutions don’t fall into the trap of becoming like the other “Islamic states” before them.

  13. hudani5

    October 24, 2011 at 11:06 AM


  14. ymr

    October 24, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    It can be like Saudi without oil money being stolen.

    • Believer

      October 25, 2011 at 12:28 AM

      But oil money is stolen in Saudi every year

      • ymr

        October 25, 2011 at 5:27 PM

        It can be like Saudi but without oil money being stolen. Sorry for not being clear.

  15. Abu Yousuf

    October 24, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    Aside from calling Gaddafi a despot and supporting the “Libyan Spring” I support the gist of this article. Yes, Gaddafi had some eccentricities, idiosyncracies, and waywardness, but which Muslim ruler (or Muslim period) today doesn’t? Uprisings end up hurting people more than benefiting them. I also believe, and Abu ‘Ammar can correct me, that rising against Muslim rulers no matter how tyrannical they may be is forbidden in Islam.

    Having said that, yes of course when Abdul Jalil talks about democracy he does not need permission because they will never be happy with you until you follow them in their ways and their religion. And we will certainly follow them into the lizard’s hole, as we pretty much have. The form of government that is considered supreme in the West is democracy. Is it the best form of governance? Great monarchies and just rulers (including Messengers who were kings) reigned for many a dynasty without democracy and thankfully bereft of its inherent inefficiencies. Democracy is a theoretical salve to soothe the populace but in reality plutocracy is the dominant form of government in countries that purport to be democracies. The laws lifting the ban on polygamy and the law banning riba are a welcome reprieve from the past regime. Polygamy is still widely practiced amongst Muslims in today’s society and increasingly so in United Kingdom. Furthermore, tens of thousands of Mormons in Utah and the borderlands of Arizona practice it. The governments do not care to prosecute these en masse unless it also involves weddings with women under 18. Whatever Allah has permitted and what our Rasool encouraged has tremendous personal and social benefits. I have been analyzing data of unwed Muslim sisters in USA and the initial analysis is disheartening. If they and their parents were a little more open minded they could save themselves from spinsterhood as female Muslimaat outnumber Muslim men here. The Muslim men exacerbate the situation by choosing to marry docile homely types from ‘back home’ instead of the hard charging independent western-educated sisters here. This is a social ill polygamy could, if legally allowed, solve easily. Abu ‘Ammar himself mentioned on the Deen Show that some western jurists are starting to write articles exploring and/or promoting the notion of polygamy to solve many social ills.

    As for riba, there is no escape from this malevolence. The most we Muslims can do is save up in interest-free checking accounts and live in an apartment or (like my friends and I have done) buy homes with a full cash payment after a few years of saving. Other than that, Muslims would be well served to stay away from a veritable panoply of financial investment instruments whose underlying mechanism for earnings is riba-based (even including those that purport to be interest-free e.g. zero coupon bonds). Those wishing to delve into the capital markets must exercise utmost caution so as not to fall into riba and riba-derivatives (not to be confused with financial derivatives). The money market is out of the question for Muslims who wish to guard themselves from riba.

  16. chuck hird

    October 24, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    My question whether sharia’s compatibility with democracy, was a sincere question without any preconceived answer. Several responders seemed to imply the question was something an islamaphobe would ask. I really do want to be informed of its compatibility.

    • Osman

      October 25, 2011 at 3:01 AM

      Hi Chuck,

      To give a super quick answer. Shariah can be completely democratic in matters that have not been clearly decided by Islam, either by the Quran (as the words of God) or in the actions and statements of Prophet Muhammad.

      For example, Shariah law would not allow for the citizens of a country to vote for the legalization of pornography, because this is something clearly against Islamic morals and values. However, Shariah would allow for the citizens to vote on issues such as electing its leadership, or civil matters that must change due to time and place, and many common propositions that we vote on in America today.

      Hope this helps a bit.

    • amad

      October 26, 2011 at 3:06 AM

      • Jeremiah

        October 26, 2011 at 12:12 PM

        Is it appropriate to call this a fatwa? The article on FCNA’s website characterizes this a resolution agreed upon after their recent meeting. I am not sure if the FCNA intended this as a ‘legal ruling’.

  17. riza

    October 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    may the Almighty Allah help all the Muslim and non muslim to understand what is sharia and to erase the fear of sharia from people’s mind as did in Turkey and Tunisia Unlike the taleban who misunderstod the Sharia and disfame Islam. May the Libyan and the Egyptian do the same and guide other muslim nations

  18. Shahzad

    October 25, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    Shariah + Stupid People = Stupid System (eg: Taliban)
    Shariah + Wisdom = Enlightened System

    In other words, Shariah in of itself does not usher in justice and enlightenment. But its the people behind it that will make or break any system. Any attempt to enforce personal piety by Islamist experiments never lasts (eg: Iran, Taliban). Rather, wise leaders will focus on long term benefits, such as social justice, education (religious + secular) and economy. They have to be patient.

  19. chuck hird

    October 26, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    I appreciate the response from Osman. Thank-you.

  20. chuck hird

    October 26, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    In discussing with my son the importance of being able to live side by side with our brothers and sister Muslims. My son argues that the Koran wants those not converted to Islam eliminated. Realizing the Koran is the actual words of Allah, and the Christian Bible only a history written several decades after Jesus died, my response is that we also find in the Bible statements like stoning an accused adulteress, which we probably would not do in todays world. My sons response is that Islam needs a new testament. Well, it is difficult to write a new testament and change the actual words of Allah. How do we respond to these kinds of arguments?

    • Hassan

      October 26, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      You can respond by telling that Quran does not say those not converted to Islam be eliminated. (hence no need of any new testament)

  21. chuck hird

    October 26, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Hassan, We must be misguided in many aspects of the Quran. How can we correctly be informed about what is in the Quran if we do not read Arabic? What the Quran teaches or doesn’t teach seems to the biggest hangups for westerners.

  22. Gaffar Gailani

    February 13, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    I believe that Mr. Abdul jalil doesnt need to talk about Sharia Now. There are bigger problems they have to face and sharia can be discussed later. We as muslims rush things, and want to do everything in one day. Priorities have to be rearranged.

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