What is the truth about the resistance in Libya? Who are they ? Are they Salafists? Why is there so much resentment towards Moamar Qadhafi? Today I spent a little bit of time doing an Internet research, and keeping in mind that Wikipedia is only as good as the information that is fed to the site, I have found some information that is starting to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. The Wikipedia site seems to have been updated by an individual from the Qadhafi regime and despite the limitations it contained some useful information.
The real clues about the people opposed to Qadhafi is the name Sanusi. My research started by trying to find the connection of the Berber people to the second world war. On that quest I failed to find what I wanted, or at least I think I failed. Instead I found the Benghazi connection that ties in with the late King Idris and learned about the Sanusi army. It all ties back to the great grand-father of king Idris who founded the Sanusi movement. The tie apparently goes all the way back to descent from Fatimah the daughter of Mohammed (or so it is claimed)
The Sanusi movement itself is tied to both the Salafists and the Sufi. In Benghazi the people refer to themselves as Sufi, even though the majority of the population seem to be Sunni. Either way there is a strong tie to the Sunni movement rather than to the Shia movement. The purpose of the movement was to bring people back to a purer form of Islam. The leaders of the movement had to fight both the French and the Italians and they were not very Christian friendly (at least according to the Wikipedia entry), wanting to rid northern Africa of the Christian influence (even though the Christians were there first). However, this was not the case with Idris, who saw an alliance with the English and the French as the means by which the people could throw off Italian colonialism.
This actually explains why there are Salafists in the towns surrounding Benghazi. The people seem to accept some of the rigidity of that movement, but the Sanusi movement was not totally Salafist and not totally Sufi. It was a mixture of both. It was the Italians who broke up the movement, and it was Qadhafi who more or less banned the movement, taking over the property and renaming the university dedicated to the founder of the Sanusi movement. (I am at least seeing the reasons for the deep-seated resentment towards Qadhafi). On top of this, Qadhafi also banned the language of the minority tribes of Berber people.
When parsing the comments from the Qadhafi regime it is necessary to discover what he means by “criminals” and “armed gangs” and who exactly he is claiming to be Al Qaeda. My view here is that those people are not affiliated with Al Qaeda at all, yet there are some, especially from the one town of Derna who had been attracted to Al Qaeda, which again is in part based upon the history of the region and of the Sanusi movement. Put it down to a deep-seated distrust of foreigners which was fostered in the name of establishing a purer form of Islam. This would in part explain the attraction to what Al Qaeda promised.
Something that is rather odd, though, is the information that Qadhafi was anti Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps this can be explained by Gaddafi’s “Little Green Book” which is in fact Qadhafi’s interpretation of Islam. The writer of the Wikipedia claims that Qadhafi introduced Sharia law, which means that people can get their hands cut off for being thieves (yet Qadhafi still has his hands!!) and it does not make sense that he destroyed the mosques in several of the cities including the mosque in Zintan – unless of course the mosque was associated not with MB or even Salafism, but with the Sanusi movement.
The suppression of the Berbers, as well as of the Sanusi movement is probably the one thing that unites the various tribes that are opposed to Qadhafi, and this is exactly what happened when Idris united the people in an attempt to overthrow the Libyan colonial masters from Italy during and after the second world war.
Since the Libyan Sanusi army consisted of about 5 battalions during the second world war, there seems to be a bond between the people of Cyrenaica and the British, as well as the French. Perhaps this explains why the French were willing to drop weapons to the Berbers who are in the western mountain regime.
Also, it seems to me that the notion that all of these people are associated with Al Qaeda is made up in order to pin the blame, or to make out that these people want to establish a government that is even more extreme that the extremism of Qadhafi. However, that simply does not fit with the behaviour of the people associated with the National Transitional Council. It does not fit with those who have been fighting for their lives in Misrata, where Qadhafi has been using missiles against the population. It simply does not fit. Even in Benghazi, the man who used his car as a bomb was not a Salafist, was not associated with the extremism of Al Qaeda but he was angered by the way in which Qadhafi’s goons fired upon unarmed people, and he acted, using cooking gas cylinders as his weapon of choice. His action was the beginning of the end, but he was a man who eschewed extremism.
The jigsaw puzzle is only partially completed because there is a lot more to be discovered. The problem though, is relying upon unrealiable and biased information that has been uploaded into places like Wikipedia. Some of the information is accurate, but I must admit that the praising of Qadhafi is well and truly over the top, since the man has a history of being a terrorist, and of sponsoring terrorism all around the world. At least for now, I have a better understanding about why the French have decided to trust the people in the Western mountain region with those arms – they seem to know and recognize that these are not your ordinary every day jihadist, but really are people who want to integrate with the western world, as best as they can.