This article, like all mainstream media articles, commits the error I discussed here: of thinking that when it comes to Muslims, “one is either an ‘extremist’ or a ‘moderate,’ with an entirely unsupported assumption made that a Muslim who is not in al-Qaeda and may even disapprove of it must therefore necessarily also embrace secular, pluralistic, democratic principles. The possibility that Muslims may favor Sharia””including all of its repressive elements, its denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, its oppression of women, and the rest””without supporting terrorism or being a member of a terrorist group never seems to occur to them.”
I tried to tell you: “Libya rebels raise concern about Islamic extremism,” from AP, April 19:
AJDABIYA, Libya (AP) “” Abdel-Moneim Mokhtar was ambushed and killed by Moammar Gadhafi’s troops last week on a dusty road in eastern Libya “” the end of a journey that saw him fight as a jihadi in Afghanistan and then return home where he died alongside NATO-backed rebels trying to oust the longtime authoritarian leader.
In describing Mokhtar’s death on Friday, Gadhafi’s government said he was a member of al-Qaida “” part of an ongoing attempt to link the rebels to Osama bin Laden’s group. Four years ago, al-Qaida said it had allied itself with the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group “” of which Mokhtar was a top military commander.
Two days before he was killed, Mokhtar denied any connection between his group and al-Qaida, telling The Associated Press in an interview: “We only fought to free Libya.”
“We realized that Gadhafi is a killer and imprisoned people, so we had to fight him,” said Mokhtar, one of a handful of rebel battalion commanders who led more than 150 rebels in eastern Libya.
The question of Islamic fundamentalists among the rebels is one of the murkier issues for Western nations who are aiding the anti-Gadhafi forces with airstrikes and must decide how deeply to get involved in the fight. Some countries, including the U.S., have been wary “” partly out of concern over possible extremists among the rebels.
NATO’s top commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, told Congress last month that officials had seen “flickers” of possible al-Qaida and Hezbollah involvement with rebel forces. But he said there was no evidence of significant numbers within the opposition leadership.
Spokesman Mustafa Gheriani of the opposition council in Benghazi said any extremists among the fighters are exceptions and that ensuring democracy is the only way to combat them.
Mokhtar, 41, of the northwestern town of Sabratha, arrived in Afghanistan at age 20 in 1990 when the mujahedeen were fighting the puppet regime installed by the Soviets before they withdrew after a decade-long war.
He fought for three years in the fields and mountains of Khost and Kandahar provinces under Jalaluddin Haqqani “” a prominent commander who was backed by the U.S. during the Soviet war but has now become one of its fiercest enemies in Afghanistan.
At least 500 Libyans went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, according to The Jamestown Foundation, a U.S.-based think tank, but Mokhtar said there aren’t many fighting with the rebels now. Many like Mokhtar who returned home were arrested or killed by Gadhafi when they announced the creation of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the mid-1990s to challenge his rule.
Mokhtar became one of the LIFG’s top three military commanders, said Anes Sharif, another member of the group who has known him for almost two decades….
Sharif, who was part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s political division and has been working with the rebels as well, said years of experience have convinced them that most Libyans don’t want to live under a strict Islamic regime. But he did believe that politicians with conservative Islamic views will attract the most support in Libya.
“The West needs to understand that there is a difference between Islamic culture and radicalization,” Sharif said….
“In an environment where everybody is respected and is allowed to carry out their religion without fear of being tortured, arrested or killed, there is no extremism,” said Sharif….