Cairo: The Interior Minister of Libya has shunned his two-day old decision of resigning due to severe criticism on him failing to stop the attacks on Sufi shrines and sacred Islamic sites and their destruction at the hands of hardline Islamists.
Libya’s Interior Minister, Fawzi Abdel Aal, had announced his resignation from the public office as he was feeling heat over his incompetency in stopping attacks on Sufi shrines across the country and pressure had been mounting up on him. However, he has reversed his decision of resigning and the attacks on sacred Islamic sites continue along with continuation of criticism on him.
There is a wave of uproar in the country against destruction of Sufi shrines at the hands of hardline Islamists belonging to strict sect of Islam, Salafism. The United Nations has also moved a plea to end such “brutal attacks” on the shrines of holy personalities of Islam.
Libyan Muslims have been divided on the issue of destroying Sufi shrines since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in the country. The vast majority of the Libyans follow a mainstream form of Sunni Islam, and the country also contains significant numbers of adherents to the more mystical Sufi traditions, which include prayers and meditation for spiritual peace around shrines and graves of Islamic personalities. The former King Idris, overthrown by Colonel Qaddafi, came from a Muslim religious order, the Senussi, often considered a form of Sufism. But many other Libyan Muslims do not like Sufis or even consider them heretics.
In addition, there are an unknown number of militant Islamists who took up arms against Colonel Qaddafi, some of whom had fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and may favor strict actions against Sufi deviations from Muslim orthodoxy. There are also Salafis, who favor a strict and puritanical interpretation of Islam and mock at pure Sufi practices. In Libya, the Salafis have generally shunned politics and even during the revolt against Colonel Qaddafi, they were inactive.
The Interior Minister, Fawzi Abdel Aal, seemed to be more or less powerless in stopping the attacks but he has announced his decision to withdraw his resignation.
The interior minister had said he would resign because of the criticism, but only after two days, he said that his resignation would “further complicate security.”
Abdel Aal said, “If we deal with this using security we will be forced to use weapons, and these groups have huge amounts of weapons.” He was referring to the militants who are destroying Sufi shrines.
“We can’t be blind to this. These groups are large in power and number in Libya. I can’t enter a losing battle, to kill people over a grave,” he added.
He further stated, “If all shrines in Libya are destroyed so we can avoid the death of one person, then that is a price we are ready to pay.”
UNESCO, the cultural agency of the United Nations, has also issued a statement denouncing the escalating vandalism. The group specifically cited the destruction of the Islamic Center of Sheik Abdus Salam al-Asmar in Zlitan, the mosque of Sidi Sha’ab in Tripoli and the shrine of Sidi Ahmed Zaroug in Misurata.
The UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, said in the statement, “I am deeply concerned about these brutal attacks on places of cultural and religious significance.”
“Such acts must be halted, if Libyan society is to complete its transition to democracy,” he added.