Shariah law in Libya will be moderate, officials say

Libyan officials sought to allay some concerns that Shariah law will be the source of legislation for new regime, saying that Libya is a moderate and modern society.

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Libyan officials are seeking to allay concerns that Shariah law will be the source of legislation for new regime, saying Libya is a moderate and modern society.

"I would like to assure the international community that we as Libyans are Muslims but moderate Muslims," interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Monday.

Jalil's comments came a day after he said Shariah law would be the "basic source" of legislation in the country and that laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. Jalil talked about immediate changes to laws — specifically amending regulations concerning marriage, banking and housing loans, banishing massive interest rates — to conform to Shariah customs.

On Monday, Jalil said that he was referring to a temporary constitution and that there will be a referendum on a new constitution after it is drawn up.

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Speaking on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Ali Aujali, Libyan ambassador to the U.S., said there's no need to worry that Libyan-based Shariah law will be anything like Sharia law practised by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"Libya, first of all, is not Afghanistan," Aujali said. "Secondly, the interpretation of the scholars in Afghanistan is completely different from the interpretation of the scholars in Libya. Libya is a very modern society. It is a conservative society, it's true, but it is a society which is based on logic and human issues. I'm not worried about this at all."

Shariah will deal with personal or social issues, or issues related to interest on loans, he said, while assuring that, women, for example, will have the same rights as men.

Using Shariah as the main source of legislation is stipulated in the constitution of neighbouring Egypt. Still, Egyptian laws remain largely secular as Egypt's interpretation of Shariah does not cover all aspects of modern life, while Saudi Arabia and Iran apply much more strict interpretations.

Canada takes wait-and-see attitude

The government is waiting to see how constitutional talks progress, said Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs: "The process has just started, of the constitution. Canada has offered to help in creating the new constitution and we'll see the process evolves."

Tory MP Chris Alexander, former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, said Afghanistan  now is harmonizing Shariah with all the human-rights conventions they have signed, "and it works, there and in other countries. In Libya's case we'll have to see." 

NDP justice critic Jack Harris said Canada shouldn't threaten to pull humanitarian assistance if the government doesn't agree with Libya's constitution. 

"This kind of ultimatum is not the way that I think we can assist the Libyan people," he said. "I think we’ve got to be there and be part of this process."

But Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the issue of Shariah law is a discussion the government has to have with Libya. 

"All countries have international responsibilities on human rights, equal rights between men and women. We have to make sure we have democracy in Libya and that it's a democracy that will respect full participation of women in political life, in public life … and that we don't want to see a return to a system of laws that frankly was very difficult for women." 

With files from The Associated Press