A prominent and influential Libyan Islamist cleric, returning to his native land after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, has demanded a role for "moderate" Islam in politics. He said people need to understand that Islam is not just about punishment,cutting of hands and beheading with swords. Though he has no formal political role, Al-Sallabi has become a hugely significant voice in Libyan affairs because he is close to the government of Qatar, an influential backer of interim rulers the National Transitional Council(NTC). He also is a close associate of Tripoli's military commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a rising and increasingly divisive Islamist figure in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Though Islam and politics could not be separated in Libya, he had earned his public voice only because he is a Libyan citizen.
Some Libyans, including several at the meeting, suspect that Al-Sallabi favours introducing a strict form of Islamic law, or sharia, in a country that has long disavowed militant Islam. Since the fall of Tripoli on August 23, Sallabi has emerged as a prominent spokesman for groups of Islamists unhappy about what they see as attempts by some NTC leaders to exclude them from political life.
It was not clear whether he was back in Libya permanently or would return to his temporary base in Qatar.Sallabi, who was jailed by Gaddafi in the 1980s for opposition activities, said that though Islam and politics could not be separated in Libya, he had earned his public voice only because he was a Libyan citizen. Several members of the crowd some of them Islamic scholars berated Al-Sallabi, telling him that religious leaders had no place in politics.