CAIRO - Joining the country's politics after decades of suppression under late leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's Muslim Brotherhood has formed a new political party, the Middle East Online reported.
"We aim for diversity and a state of law where differences in opinion are respected," Mohammed Sawan, the leader of the Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party, said.
A former political leader, Sawan was elected the leader of the nascent party after a three-day conference in the capital Tripoli.
"I have real mixed feelings because I was imprisoned under Gaddafi for my attempts to create a political party, and I am grateful to the people here who have placed their trust in me.
Sawan was elected by 51 percent of more than 1,400 attendees, who came from more than 18 cities across Libya.
Under Gaddafi, the formation of political parties was banned and Islamists were aggressively repressed.
The fallen leader, who was killed in a popular uprising last year, called Islamists "heretics" and worked energetically to silence them.
Hundreds, if not thousands, were jailed, and an unknown number were executed.
In 1987, Gaddafi authorized state television to broadcast the hanging of six suspected Islamists in front of a crowd at a sports stadium.
But since Gaddafi's fall, political parties were being formed at a quick pace, though there is not law governing party formation.
Libya's new rulers and most of the new parties emphasize Islam as the main source of legislation.
Many Libyans have hailed the formation of the Brotherhood's party as ushering in a new era for Libya.
We have created a new era in Libya by electing a party leader democratically," said Khalil Sawalim, a UK-based rights activist.
Though the platform of the new party is still under discussion, Brotherhood's members say that the party's program will be based on democratic principles.
"Everything about this party is based on the democratic principle," said Nizar Kawan, one of the conference's organizers.
Majida Fallah, a party activist, echoes a similar opinion.
"We are all Islamists and we want Libya to be at the summit of developed nations," Fallah told a jubilant crowd in which dozens of women were present.
Sawan, the party leader, says that women will play a big role in the Brotherhood's new party.
We believe women can run in elections and have all their rights," he said.
Abla Zeinab, a member of a Tarhuna-based women's association, expresses jubilance with the new party.
"These people simply convince me," she said, adding that women across the country have the same rights and responsibilities as men.
For Osama Mohammed, the Brotherhood's party is more appealing for the role it gives to Islamic Shari`ah and the principle of Shura (consultation)."All Libyans are Muslims, but Shari`ah is the common denominator through which we can settle our differences.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net