Under Mu’ammar Qadhafi’s rule in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was outlawed, and conducted most of its activity from abroad. Now that many of its members have returned to the country, the MB is beginning to consolidate its presence in the political arena and has established a party, called Justice and Construction.
Like the MB party in Egypt, the Libyan party presented itself as independent of the movement; however, the connection between the party and movement, both on the ideological and the organizational level, is difficult to ignore. Party leader Muhammad Sowan previously served as the head of the movement’s Shura Council, and half of the party members are MB members.
The Libyan MB resembles the Egyptian movement also in its vision for Libya: It holds that shari’a must be the primary source of legislation, while principles of democracy are supported. . It should be noted, however, that the Libyan MB has stressed that its ties with MB movements in other countries are strictly ideological.
This report will review the consolidation of the movement in Libya after its many years in exile, its first steps in the political arena, and its vision for the new Libyan state.
History of the Libyan MB
According to researcher Mahmoud Al-Nakou’, who was one of the founders of the Libyan MB in the 1960s, the movement got its first foothold in Libya in the late 1940s, when three members of the Egyptian MB – ‘Izz Al-Din Ibrahim, Mahmoud Al-Sharbini and Jallal Sa’da – escaped to Libya after being suspected of involvement in the assassination of Egyptian prime-minister Mahmoud Al-Nuqrashi Pasha. The three, who found asylum with Libyan Prince Idris Al-Sanousi, started to spread the movement’s ideas, and so did MB-affiliated teachers who came to teach in Libya. More MB activists came to Libya after the 1952 Free Officers Revolution in Egypt. According to Nakou’, following the political and ideological revival triggered by the 1967 war, MB followers established a branch of the movement in Tripoli. It was headed by Sheikh Fathallah Muhammad Ahwas, and another of its founders and leaders was Al-Nakou’ himself. A similar branch was founded in Benghazi. The two branches coordinated their positions, and operated in secret due to the law banning political activity. After the 1969 military coup and the rise to power of Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi, the MB organization in Libya stopped its activity, but did not disband. In 1973, many of the movement members were arrested, and were released two years later, when Qadhafi ordered the MB to stop its activity in Libya and expelled its leaders from the country.