Thursday, October 27, 2011

Booze, Jews & Women in the New Free Libya

The announcement that the new Libyan constitution would be based on Islamic law, though moderate in tone, begs the questions of what the roles of booze, Jews and women will be in the new, free Libya.

While many women were active revolutionaries, some in the underground, others were armed "freedom fighters," like the pregnant doctor from Tripoli who fought at Bani Walid. But the announcement that Libya was declared free and liberated also included the determination that the Islamic law would be imposed that allow men to have up to four wives.

Certainly, as they did under Gadhafi's rule, women will be permitted to drive, but even moderate Islamic law puts women in their place, and this is an important point that must be resolved.

In addition, there was a large and active Jewish settlement in Tripoli who lived peacefully with the Berbers and Romans even before the Arabs arrived, but were driven out after Gadhafi assumed power.

The question isn't the one being asked - what will the new Libyan government policy be towards Israel, the question is whether the Libyan Jews can return to their homes in Tripoli and resume their role as an historic and integral part of the community and society.

This problem was not addressed when the young Libyan Jew living in exile in Italy returned to Libya, joined the revolution, fought with the Berber rebels and drove into Tripoli with them in August. He then began restoring the synagogue in old city. He asked the local Islamic religious leaders before he began, and they gave him their blessing, and even offered to help clean up the long abandoned building.

But shortly thereafter however, he was given a legal citation by the new government for breaking into an historic site, and intimidated by a number of armed men, and then a angry mob assembled at his hotel and physically threatened him.

For Libya to become a true open democracy it must include Libyan Jews.

Besides women and Jews, Islamic law and local social morals might prohibit alcohol, which will be a vital element if they want to develop the tourist industry, which under the Gadhafi regime was only a very small part of the economy.

With all of its ancient Roman ruins, desert petrographs and the history museum at the old castle fort, as well as beautiful beaches and a moderate climate, Libya could become another popular tourist resort for people from all over the world. But permitting people to have wine and beer with their meals and alcoholic drinks at social occassions is vital for the tourist industry to develop patrons from Europe and North America.

The problem with Islamic law is that it is based on the Muslim religion, and even those who don't subscribe to that specific religion must abide by their laws, which have traditionally strictly prohibited liquor.

That however, was not a problem during the revolution, as one of Gadhafi's sons was described by his European model girlfriend as drinking heavily shortly before Tripoli was over-run, and a number of journalists at the front lines, on more than one occassion, reported young rebels in pickup trucks were drinking whiskey like a bunch of Texans on a Friday night.

If alcohol was the drink of choice for both loyalist leaders and the young rebels during the revolution, it should be permitted in the new Libya, especially in the hotels and restaurants that cater primarily to tourists.

Of course if the radical Islamists are going to devise a new constitution that prohibits Libyan Jews from returning home, permits men to have four wives, depreciates the role of women in society, and prohibits alcohol even for those who are not devout Muslim, then they should not say it is the new Free Libya.

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