The Libyan MB’s Justice and Construction party, and the Al-Watan (Nation) party, a Wahabbi grouping led by former al Qaeda figure Abdelhakim Belhadj, are reported far behind throughout the country.
With MB-ruled Tunisia and Egypt to its west and east, Libya may have seen their examples—with Wahhabi riots in Tunisia against modern art, leaving thousands injured and one dead, in June, and deep political divisions in Egypt—as incentives to repudiate the MB. But other factors may be detected in Libya’s swerve away from Islamist politics.
First, the successful NATO air action to assist rebels in defeating Qaddafi may have moderated the anti-Western resentment that fuels the MB in Egypt. Further, a people that have won their freedom under arms may be more reluctant to take dictation from new ideological usurpers. Libyans may also have grown sick of the late dictator’s anti-Western criminal antics, which included the bombing of Pan American Airways flight 103 in 1988, and the resulting status of their country as global pariahs.
Libya has a history of resisting radical Islam since the rise of Saudi Wahhabism in the 18th century, rooted in the defense of Sufi metaphysics. King Idris, who ruled from independence in 1951 to his overthrow by Qaddafi in 1969, was the head of the Senussi Sufi order. Idris had governed Cyrenaica but gained royal authority as grandson of the Sufi mystic Sayyid Muhammad Ibn Ali As-Senussi (1787-1859). Many Libyans remember the tradition of their “Sufi king” with affection.