Sufi shrines destroyed in Libya —again

We reported back in February that Sufis held a parade in Tripoli to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed—in defiance of threats from Salafists, who had just razed a Sufi school and revered tombs of Islamic saints in Benghazi. Now comes this extremely bad news from Reuters, Aug. 25:

Attackers bulldozed a mosque containing Sufi Muslim graves in the center of Tripoli in broad daylight on Saturday, in what appeared to be the boldest sectarian attack in Libya since the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi…

Government officials condemned the demolition of the large Sha’ab mosque and blamed an armed group who, they said, considered its graves and shrines to Sufi figures un-Islamic.

The bulldozer leveled the Sha'ab mosque on Saturday as the police surrounded the site and prevented people from approaching.

"A large number of armed militias carrying medium and heavy weapons arrived at the Al Sha'ab mosque with the intention to destroy the mosque because of their belief graves are anti-Islamic," said a government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

He said the authorities tried to stop the militias but, after a small clash, decided to seal off the area while the demolition took place to prevent any violence from spreading.

Libya's Supreme Security Council condemned the action, the council spokesman, Abdel Moneim al-Hurr, said.

A man who appeared to be overseeing the demolition said the Interior Ministry had authorized the operation after discovering people had been worshiping the graves and practicing "black magic."

The ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Worse, this was the second such attack in as many days. Another Reuters report, from just 24 hours earlier:

Conservative Islamists blew up the tomb of a 15th century Sufi scholar and burned down a library in the Libyan city of Zlitan, a military official said on Saturday, the latest attacks on sites in the region branded idolatrous by some sects.

The attackers used bombs and a bulldozer to destroy a complex of shrines that included the tomb of Abdel Salam al-Asmar on Friday and ruined thousands of books at the Asmari Mosque library, said witnesses and Zlitan military council official Omar Ali.

What's particularly surreal is that the Islamist militants now in control of northern Mali have been destroying Sufi shrines in Timbuktu—in an unrecognized, de facto rogue state that may soon be overthrown by multilateral military intervention. And now the same thing is happening in Libya—under a regime installed with the aid of multilateral military intervention, and being backed by Western aid and investment…