Muslim brotherhood goes public in Libya

Muslim brotherhood goes public in Libya


The Muslim Brotherhood held its first public conference on Libyan soil Nov 17. after being banned for decades, and used the platform to set a moderate tone, calling for a broad national reconstruction effort.

As Libya emerges from a bloody civil war, many observers believe the next elections could pit religious political groups against secular parties, with better-organized Islamists such as the Brotherhood having a tactical advantage.

Speaking nine months to the day after the start of the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi that eventually ended his 42-year rule, Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leader Suleiman Abdelkader praised the rebellion and called on Libya’s factions to unite.

“Rebuilding Libya is not a task for one group or one party but for everyone, based on their ability,” Abdelkader told the meeting of about 700 people at a wedding hall in Benghazi, the eastern city where the revolt against Gadhafi began.

 His remarks appeared to be an expression of support for the idea of a technocratic interim government, which Abdurrahim El-Keib, the prime minister designate, is trying to assemble by a Nov. 22 deadline. Abdelkader would not, however, be drawn on whether the Brotherhood wanted one of its members to be part of the interim cabinet, which is due to organize elections in June to a constituent assembly.

“Maybe some (members) will join based on their qualifications and ability. But for this time period we will not join as a party,” he said. Members of the group had often joined decades ago and had either lived abroad or were forced to keep their membership secret for fear of arrest, torture and imprisonment.

The movement’s leader, Abdelkader, emphasised the group’s moderate nature in his speech. “We don’t want to replace one tyranny with another. All together, we want to build a civil society that uses moderate Islam in its daily life,” he said.

Commander: Cabinet deal reached

The meeting, which is due to last several days, was called after the revolution to appoint a new leadership as the Brotherhood evolves from an organization in exile to a group based throughout Libya, outgoing leader Abdelkader said.

Meanwhile, Abdelkarim Belhaj, the former jihadist who heads the military council in the Libyan capital, said Nov. 17 that a deal had been reached with the ruling National Transitional Council for former civilian rebels to sit in the country’s new cabinet.

“We have reached an agreement that candidates from the civilian rebels will receive certain very specific portfolios,” Belhaj said at the start of a military parade, without elaborating. “We hope that these promises will be kept,” added the man, whom Libyan media have suggested is among the leading candidates for the defense ministry.

The NTC has said a new Libyan government led by interim premier Abdel Rahim al-Kib will likely be announced on Sunday. Kib has said the new government will be made up of technocrats, but pressures from Libya’s tribes and from the various armed factions are making that promise a difficult one to keep.

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.