Monday, October 24, 2011

The Libyan Liberation: For Men Only?

I expected that to be the case:
When Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional National Council, pronounced the end of the uprising, the crowd reacted with shouts of “God is great.” This was not long after people sang the bouncy national anthem of pre-Qaddafi days, which was revived to help celebrate the downfall of the dictator, who was killed on Thursday after he tried to flee Surt.
Two strands — a new piety and all-purpose, freewheeling happiness — dominated the ceremony. Mr. Abdel-Jalil, stooping humbly to shake hands in the crowd and embracing the elderly relative of a fallen rebel, made clear that personality would have nothing to do with the new order.
“We are an Islamic country,” he said as the sun descended. “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.”
Among other things, he promised that Islamic banks would be established in the new Libya. He also talked of lifting restrictions on the number of women Libyan men can marry, The Associated Press reported.
The comments reflected not only the chairman’s personal religious conservatism and the country’s, but also the rising influence of Islamists among the former rebels. The Islamists, who include some influential militia commanders, have warned that they will not permit their secular counterparts in a new government to sideline them.
Some of the secular former rebels contend that the Islamists have successfully exploited the country’s power vacuum, infusing the conflict with religion and criticizing those not considered sufficiently pious, including women who do not wear the head scarf.
The crucial part of that quote is in the sentence where Libyans are simply told what the Constitution will be based on. They will not be consulted on it, and it looks like they cannot vote on it, either. Who it is, exactly, that will draft the Constitution is unclear. But it will be based on the sharia law, created by medieval male scholars.

Another way to interpret the sentence about Islamic banking and the right of man to take four wives if he so wishes might be that the rebels are offered relief from debt and more women. But that's just me being all bitter about the direction of this particular liberation.

It's quite possible that the Libyans, both men and women, would openly select the kind of Constitution they are probably going to get now, whether they wish it or not. After all, those rules might simply codify current reality:
What outsiders may not appreciate is that Libya is a very conservative Muslim country. Women are usually only seen on the streets shopping or in the company men. While women can drive (unlike in Saudi Arabia) virtually all women keep their arms and legs covered and wear the hijab (or headscarf) and some where [sic] the niqab or full face covering. Alcohol is officially outlawed in the entire country.
For a Western visitor it can at times make for some unusual sights. Restaurants and cafes are almost exclusively filled with men. Even at the victory celebrations this week there was a segregated area in Martyr’s Square just for women.
Yet women were heavily involved in the revolution and many say they expect to have more equality in the new Libya.
"Many say they expect to have more equality in the new Libya." I would not bet on that outcome, sadly.

Women celebrating in the segregated area set out for them at the Martyr's Square, by AP:

Added later: A blog by an individual suggests that the speech was somewhat more complicated on the question of women's rights. I quote, with the caveat that I have no way of verifying the correctness of any of it:
2 - Mustafa thanked a group of people in the following order (i will only mention the first two). First, to the young men for their obvious devotion and sacrifice that they willingly jumped into in the name of peace and freedom. but the second part is what i want to focus on (especially to some of the reporters out there who just like to talk smack). "I want to thank the WOMEN of libya. The mothers, the daughters, the wives, and all the women who without them and their role in raising these fine men that this revolution so desperately needed".

He continued on to say: "We will not forget you. By Allah's will you will not be forgotten. It is time for Libya to further open its doors to you and support you. By Allah's there will be embassies run by women. Hospitals be run by women. Women politicians, teachers, and the vast positions will be open to and be run by women". I want to point this out to some of the reporters who think or fear that Libyans do not recognize the role of women in our society. Even in conservative cities such as Benghazi, Darna, and even Al Baydah (Where Mustafa Abduljaleel is from), have allowed and sometimes encouraged women to hold positions of importance. But now that this brutal regime and its policy of dog-eat-kitten is gone, more oportunities will be open to our women and Inshallah Inshallah Inshallah (God willing), our women will finally have the ability to light a shining beacon of hope and honor that we know they are capable of bringing.

Of course that is not necessarily in conflict with a family law based on the sharia. But neither is it gender equality.