(CNSNews.com) – One day after Libya’s top lawmaker appeared to back down – under criticism from fundamentalists – over the need for a secular state, the country’s prime minister-elect on Wednesday submitted a cabinet that does not include a single member of the country’s pro-Western liberal coalition.
Also on Wednesday, Libya’s central bank governor confirmed plans to push for a shari’a-compliant banking system. Reuters quoted Saddek Elkaber as saying on the sidelines of a banking meeting in Kuwait that demand for the changes was so high he hoped the new rules would be in place by the end of this year.
Together, the developments add new concerns to those voiced over the months since the overthrow of the Gadaffi dictatorship about the future direction the North African country may take – concerns dramatically underscored by the deadly September 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Early this week the speaker of the GNC, Mohammed Magarief, provoked a storm with comments, given in a newspaper interview on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, reiterating his view that Libya should be a secular state.
Asked about the role of shari’a in the new constitution being drafted for Libya, he told the London-based, pan-Arabic Al Hayat newspaper that the state should be secular, but added as well that its laws should not clash with Islam.
The first part of that answer angered Islamists at home, with Muslim Brotherhood lawmakers walking out of parliament in protest on Tuesday. Hours later Magarief offered a televised apology, saying it would be up to the people of Libya to decide on the constitution.
He did add, however, that “it is obvious that our reality has no room for secularism or theocracy,” the Libya Herald reported.
The Obama administration last year played down concerns about shari’a forming the basis of new constitutions in Libya and other “Arab spring” countries, with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stating that the term shari’a “has a broad application and is understood differently in different places and by different commentators.”