By Mohammed Elsharif.
Tripoli, 15 November:
Death threats have been made to the head of a Sufi centre in Tripoli’s Old City, the . . .[restrict]Libya Herald has learned.
Abdullah Banun, a lawyer and head of the Zawia Kabira, reports that there have been attempts to kill his sons as well.
On Saturday, a home-made bomb was thrown at the three sons who were standing outside the zawia (a Sufi lodge and teaching centre) near the Marcus Aurelius Arch. It blew up a car, slightly wounding one of the three but seriously injuring a friend in the neck.
The next evening, he said, another of the sons, Abdelbari, was again attacked. The assailant was captured after a chase and handed over to the authorities. Banun says that death threats were then made against him and his sons on Monday to pressurise him to agree to the man’s release.
Banun says he has been targeted for some time for speaking out against extremists who attacked and destroyed a number of Sufi shrines across the country earlier this year.
“The story started three months ago”, said Banun, explaining that extremists attacked the zawia, destroying everything in it. “Books were thrown out, the office was ransacked. It is now closed.”
In August, militants attacked and partially destroyed to the Abdul-Salam Al-Asmar Al-Fituri sufi shrine in Zliten. Encouraged by the lack of any action against them they then embarked on a rampage of attacks on Sufi shrines, including those of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Zarruq in Misrata and the Al-Sha’ab shrine and mosque in Tripoli which was completely demolished. In the capital’s Old City, graves outside almost all the mosques were desecrated and dug up, and the Sufi Othman Pasha madrassa, near the Zawia Kabira, was also ransacked and graves destroyed.
Regarding the attempts to pressurise him to agree to freeing the man arrested on Sunday, he is adamant. “I am a lawyer; that’s my ground”, he said, referring to the law and insisting he would use all means to put those responsible in jail. “I will use all my power to protect my sons”, he added.
He says he has been in touch with the authorities about the threats. ‘I’ve contacted everyone” he said, noting the limited resources the police have. “I’ve been in touch with the new prime minister, the new justice minister, the head of Tripoli local council and the head of police, but no concrete solutions appear.”
The zawia is now guarded by 25 volunteers from Tajoura. “I still expect a crime to happen”, said Banun. He claimed that extremists had been harassing residents and shop owners near the mosque, physically threatening one of the residents. But he is unhappy about accepting other offers of protection. “I wont accept the Old City turning into a war zone.”
He says he is not afraid of being targeted for speaking out against the extremists for destroying mosques and other acts of vandalism.
“I won’t let these threats affect me,” he said. “I fear only God.” [/restrict]