Sufi shrines bulldozed by ‘Salafis’ in Libyan capital

Posted on August 31, 2012

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Attackers bulldozed a mosque containing Sufi Muslim graves in the Libyan capital on Aug. 25, one day after hardliners razed a similar shrine and library elsewhere in the country.

It was not immediately clear who was behind Saturday’s attack, the third on a Sufi shrine in Tripoli in recent months, although officials have blamed past vandalism on Islamic hardliners, some of whom are followers of the ultraconservative Salafi doctrine.

One of Libya’s highest-profile cultural clashes since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi has been between followers of the mystical Sufi tradition and ultra-conservative Salafis, who say Islam should return to the simple ways followed by its prophet.

Salafis have formed a number of armed brigades in Libya. They reject as idolatrous many Sufi devotions – which include dancing and the building of shrines to venerated figures.

The demolition of the large Sha’ab mosque happened in broad daylight, drawing condemnation from government officials and Libyans.

The Sha’ab mosque housed close to 50 Sufi graves inside and, outside, the tombs of Libyan Sufi scholar Abdullah al-Sha’ab and a martyr who fought Spanish colonialists.

On Aug. 25 attackers razed the revered resting place of Abdel Salam al-Asmar in Zlitan, about 160 kilometers west of the capital, and also set fire to a historic library in a nearby mosque, ruining thousands of books.

Security officials closed the road leading to the shrines and mosque but did not intervene to stop the men from attacking the mosque hours later. Police were seen instead protecting a nearby hotel.

The president of Libya’s newly elected National Congress, Mohamed al-Magariaf, called the prime minister to an emergency meeting yesterday, according to Al Jazeera. “What is truly regrettable and suspicious is that some of those who took part in these destruction activities are supposed to be of the security forces and from the revolutionaries,” Magariaf told reporters on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, national assembly members have called for the sacking of Defense Minister Osama Juili and Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali over the security situation in the country, a member said.

Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheik Sadek al-Ghariani, condemned the vandalism and said it was the government’s responsibility to protect the graves. “No group outside of the government should use weapons and it is the responsibility of the government to provide security and prevent religious strife and division,” he said in a statement on Aug. 25.

Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur, in remarks on Twitter, condemned the actions as “crimes” for which which the culprits should be held responsible. He had asked the defense and interior ministries to intervene “but they have not carried out their duty in protecting these sites.”

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

August/27/2012

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