At first glance, this would seem to be a preposterous question. Libya overthrew the government of an eccentric, flamboyant, tyrannical and brutal dictator who ruled over them with a rod of iron for 42 years. The ‘Arab Spring’ has toppled another autocratic regime in the 22 nation Arab world. Democracy is on the march on this, the world’s most undemocratic region ... or so we think.
Before we start popping the champagne corks, here are some things we need to consider:
1. Revolution: The ‘Arab Spring’ could very well be a misnomer. The term was created by the western media to describe a series of grassroot, youth-driven, internet-fueled protests throughout the Arab world demanding freedom and democracy. While protests and uprisings are not a new thing in the Arab world, the scale of the current one is unprecedented. The West calls it ‘Spring’ as if to say the long winter slumber of autocracy and police states in the Arab world is over. Yet note: the Arabic language press does not calls these protests ‘The Arab Spring.’ Instead, they call it the ‘Arab Revolution’ and, indeed, that’s what they are. These revolutions could evolve into either a full-blown western-style democracy or swerve to another extreme: radical Islamic dictatorship.
2. Scorecard: So far, the ‘Arab Spring’ has claimed the scalps of Zine el-Abidene Ben Ali of Tunisia; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; and Mu’ammar Gaddafi in Egypt. All are North African and all were secular autocrats who ruled for decades. Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria have gone or are still undergoing the shakings of protest.
3. Democracy: True democracy is more than merely having a free and fair election. It also includes a free press, universal human rights, an independent judiciary, checks and balances between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, a military that is under the control of the civil authorities, and ‘separation of church and state’ (or, in the case of the Middle East, ‘separation of mosque and state’). Failure to have these elements in place will result in the erosion or loss of basic freedoms and human rights.
4. Religion & Politics: While the Arab protestors genuinely want democracy, they also see a significant role for political Islam and Sharia (7th century Islamic legal code) in their ‘democracy.’ Such a scenario virtually assures that such ‘democracies’ will barely resemble the western version, nor will they be ‘pro-West.’ Mix religion and the state and the ones who will suffer first are women, non-Muslims (Christians and Jews), and dissident Muslims. Eventually all Muslims will find themselves yet again under the rule of tyranny. Remember, the western world learned the hard way, through repression and war, that church and state don’t mix. The Middle East will be no different.
On 20 October 2011, the world woke up to the news that fugitive dictator Mu’ammar Gaddafi had been discovered and executed. Libya was proclaimed ‘liberated’ and many world leaders expressed the hope that the Libyan people could now live in ‘peace’ and ‘democracy.’
Don’t hold your breath! What has happened to Libya and in Libya, the 6th largest oil producer, is not a cause for comfort. Some dangerous precedents have been set and they don’t augur well for the desert nation or the world. Consider:
1. UNITED NATIONS: The UN authorized a ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya for the purpose of protecting civilians who were the target of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces (of interest is that there has been no UN action regarding Syria and the attacking of civilians there). NATO took up the UN cause and expanded the ‘mandate’ to begin nightly bombing raids on Gaddafi’s compound, while telling us that they were not trying to kill him! For the first time since the birth of the United Nations in 1945, the world body has taken to military action against a sovereign country for events happened exclusively on its own soil. Yes, the UN authorized military action against North Korea (1950) and Iraq (1990) but that was because of their military adventures against South Korea and Kuwait, respectively. Never has the UN taken action against a sovereign country for its own internal unrest. This is a dangerous precedent because once the world interfers with one country, no country is safe. Russia has been highly indignant over the UN action and said NATO has gone far beyond its mandate (I have to agree). Will the UN authorizes military action against Russia for the unrest in Chechnya? Will the UN authorize military action against China because of restiveness in Xinjiang or Tibet? Or, will the UN authorize military action against Israel because of events in the West Bank (see Zechariah 12:2-3)? The Libyan rebels owe their military victory to the intervention of NATO and the UN; should things go awry under their administration, the world community will have to take responsibility for the sorry outcome.
2. LIBYAN REBELS: What is disturbing is that the West has sided with a group of people they know very little about. Gaddafi had been threatened in the past with al-Qaeda aligned rebels who were stationed in the Libyan (Sahara) desert; rumor has it that similar elements have tried to infiltrate the ranks of the rebels or, even worse, have led the pack all along. A radical Islamic takeover will bring instability to all.
3. GADDAFI’S EXECUTION: Few people shed tears at the demise of Colonel Gaddafi. Yet, some found it disturbing how he met his death. He was intercepted from a drain pipe (NATO aerial intervention may have played a role of flushing him out). He was brutalized, tortured, and the executed. Macabre scenes of a bloodied and brutalized Gaddafi, both alive and dead, were beamed around the world. His body was left for display in a cold storage and then finally, after 5 days, he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Libyan desert. This is contrary to Muslim practice that decrees the dead should be buried immediately. Yes, Gaddafi lived by the sword and died by the sword: he used, abused, and tyrannized his people for decades. It could be argued that he ‘reaped what he sowed.’ Yet, this is also a dangerous precedent and spawns the question: are the people whom NATO liberated any better than the one from whom they were liberated? Is the grotesque handling of Gaddafi a portent of even greater evils to come in the ‘New Libya?’ Ironically, Gaddafi at 69 was the same age as Saddam Hussein when he died. The difference was that Saddam had a trial and an orderly execution, though complaints were made about his last two minutes. It would have been to the credit of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) and its leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil to have demanded the humane capture and treatment of Gaddafi so that he, too, could stand trial. After all, if it is democracy they want, this would have been the logical course of action. Instead, the ‘law of the jungle’ was what the world witnessed. Sure, Gaddafi had stripped the country of all organs of decedent government and they have to start from scratch. But it is a most disturbing prelude to a new Libya.
4. ISLAMISM/POLITICAL ISLAM: On 24 October 2011, (NTC) National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared, in the wake of Gaddafi’s death, that Libya was ‘liberated.’ Though there have been no elections to hear what the Libyan people want, he then announced that ‘Sharia’ would be the basis of Libyan law. So the decision was made for the Libyan people -- without getting their consent. It seems that the suspicion that the ‘rebels’ have been infiltrated or led by Islamists have come to pass. Islamic Banking will be the introduced into the new Libya. The law banning polygamy will be lifted. Any concession towards religious freedom will be cancelled out by the introduction of Sharia, which forbids evangelism, apostasy (leaving Islam), blasphemy (criticizing Islam) or fitna (upsetting the belief of a Muslim). This is what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq and now looks like it is happening in Libya. If any Arab country has a fighting chance to be a proper democracy, it is Tunisia. It has been westernized and secularized for decades. During its recent elections, however, the Islamist Ennahda Party, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, received 40% of the vote. If ‘secular’ Tunisia is leaning towards an Islamist party, what hope does its next door neighbor Libya have? Western experts are predicting a similar result in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Syria (if Assad falls).
So has the US, UN, and NATO, intervened in Libya to deliver it from one dictator so as to hand it over to a new entity which will be just as devoid of human rights, freedom, and democracy, as the previous regime? Will we have another Taleban-like regime in Tripoli? What’s more, could the Islamization of Libya, as aided and abetted by the world, be a prelude to a greater conflict to come (see Ezekiel 38:5, where ‘Phut’)?