Islam and the Legal System

Beginning with Libya’s 1951 constitutional declaration, Libya’s constitutional documents had consistently declared Libya an Islamic nation, and the Maliki School of Sunni Islam informed much of Libyan legislation. Libya had no official guarantee of religious freedom, and minority groups have enjoyed a variable ability to practice their religion. In particular, the Gadhafi regime suppressed minority Muslim groups viewed as a threat to Gadhafi’s power. Gadhafi’s Green Book laid out his political, social, and economic vision for Libya and served as the basis for Libyan legislation. This manifesto called for abolishing private property and adopting direct democracy, and declared religion an affirmation of natural law. In 1977, Libya instated the Declaration of the Establishment of the People’s Authority which renamed Libya the “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” and declared the Qur’an as its constitution. The Great Green Charter on Human Rights of the Jamahiriya Era of 1988 confirmed the importance of freedom of conscience and declared equality between women and men. Since the overthrow of the Gadhafi government, the National Transitional Council issued a constitutional declaration in August 2011 that referred to Shari’a as the principle source of legislation in Article One. The NTC elected a constitutional assembly to begin work on a new Libyan constitution since June 2012. The status of Islam in the new constitution remains to be seen, with different groups calling for different levels of adherence to Shari’a.

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