Islam in Libya

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Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims of mixed Arab and Berber ancestry represent over 90 percent of the Libyan population; pockets of people practicing Berber folk religion and Sufis (primarily Sanusis) live in the rural areas. Independence and a monarchy were declared in 1951 after a particularly brutal Italian occupation; King Idris al-Sanusi (grandson of the Sufi order's founder) took the throne. Al-Sanusi ignored the demands of a younger generation and those of a growing oil economy; the monarchy was dissolved in a military coup in 1969, with power going to Muammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi's “Green Book” sets forth his Third Universal Alternative to replace Communism and capitalism; unity, direct popular democracy, and Islamic socialism are considered the new bases of Libyan politics and society. Qaddafi weakened the ulama's power base through syncretic political, legal, and economic reforms. By the mid-1980s underground Islamic movements—the Hizb al-Tahrir and Ikhwan al-Muslimin—were targeted; with no legal means of protest, Islamist resistance against Qaddafi continues. Outside Libya, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) opposes Qaddafi's regime. Formed in 1981, its goal is a constitutional and democratically elected Libyan government.

Subjects: Islam.

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