There were reports of abuses of religious freedom, including reports of arrests and imprisonment on the basis of religious belief and government inaction in response to attacks on religious sites.
In November and December, officials reportedly detained ten Ahmadi Muslims, including six Pakistani nationals, in Zliten and Tripoli for either conversion or proselytizing. The group remained in custody at year’s end.
The government relied on groups outside of the formal armed forces and police to support local security, including auxiliary forces such as the Libyan Shield Forces and the Supreme Security Committee (SSC), revolutionary coalitions, and armed groups associated with the government. The government exerted varying degrees of control over these armed groups, and its response to a series of attacks on Sufi sites across the country was uneven. At times the security response was robust, as on September 7, when security forces repelled an attack on the Sidi al-Lafi mausoleum in Rajma. At other times the security response was wholly inadequate, as on August 25, when the SSC cordoned off the Sidi Sha’ab Mosque in downtown Tripoli as a Salafist group destroyed the site with heavy construction equipment in broad daylight. Authorities stated that after a small altercation with the attackers, the security forces chose not to intervene to avoid an escalation of violence. Members of the SSC and revolutionary militias also reportedly participated in an August 24 attack on Sidi Abdulsalam mosque complex in Zliten. The SSC is a semi-autonomous security force under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior.
Government authorities roundly condemned the violence against Sufi religious sites. The former Minister of Interior, Fawzi Abd al-Aal, resigned the day following the attacks, but later withdrew his resignation believing it would “complicate security.” The Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ghariani, issued a fatwa condemning the desecration of graves and holy sites on August 26. Despite the public condemnation, there have been no known arrests or prosecutions in connection with attacks on Sufi sites.
The government did not explicitly repeal specific Qadhafi-era laws and regulations that limit religious freedom, but at the same time it did not regularly enforce them. The government did not continue the Qadhafi-era practice of censoring religious material that entered the country, nor did it arrest young men who attended dawn prayers at mosques (a practice the Qadhafi regime often viewed as a sign of “religious extremism”).
In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, the judiciary was not fully functioning and citizens had little recourse if they believed their right to religious freedom was violated. Citizens did not have access to courts to seek remedy for religious freedom violations.
The Ministry for Awqaf and Islamic Affairs provided imams with texts for Friday sermons, which often contained political and social messages. The internal security agencies that in the past closely monitored and controlled citizens’ religious activities were dissolved in 2011 and not reinstated. The government ended the Qadhafi-era practice of arresting imams who delivered their own Friday sermons instead of reading the government-sanctioned texts. The government permitted religious scholars to form independent organizations that issue fatwas (religious rulings) and provide advice to followers.
Members of minority religious groups, primarily Christians, worshiped with minimal restrictions. Most of the country’s churches continued operating after the revolution. The government routinely granted visas and residence papers to religious staff from other countries. As with other classes of resident migrants, clergy generally were offered one-year residency permits.
In October the Grand Mufti called upon the Ministry of Education to remove passages relating to freedom of religion from school textbooks because they suggested to young students that they were free to choose any religion. The Grand Mufti also publically raised concerns about the expansion of Shia and Ahmadiyya Islam and Christianity in the country.
On October 1, president of the GNC Mohammed Magariaf stated the country should be a secular state where religious figures did not interfere in the political management of the state. In response to his comment, a number of GNC members walked out of Congress. Magariaf later stated that he spoke only in his personal capacity, not as president of the GNC.