New "liberal" Libya not so liberal after all

But Dr. Tallue articulates an important truth about Libya that the Western world would do well to heed. Though women do better here than in most of the country, they are still an oppressed class. Support among both genders for Shariah law is strong. If we expect Libya to make a seamless transition to modernity, we will be sorely disappointed…

As Dr. Tallue’s remark suggests, “liberal” is relative in Libya. Many Libyans are forming embryonic political parties, including some that describe themselves as “liberal” rather than “religious.” Yet when asked about the place of Shariah law in Libya’s yet unwritten constitution, “liberal” party members balk. “This is a command from God,” Essa Ali, a Tripoli businessman originally from Sabratha, said about one liberal party’s stance on Islam’s unequal inheritance laws for men and women.

Rebab Haleb, 32, an activist lawyer representing 15 Zwara women who were raped by Gadhafi militia, says she has no problem with Shariah and wouldn’t mind if her husband took a second wife. But Dr. Amal Hamoud, the sole woman on the Zwara municipal council, said she wouldn’t want three other women living with her in the house. She wouldn’t go further in discussing Shariah, however, citing her status as an unmarried woman. Amina Megheirbi, the female head of Benghazi’s big civil society Attawasul Association, is pro-Shariah. “Islam is a way of life, and you either take the whole package or none of it,” she says. But she believes Libyan women can have equality in the public sphere, even under Shariah.