Islamist militias are now dictating their agenda to the academic authorities in Libya.
Under the monarchy and the former Gaddafi regime, university courses were attended jointly by male and female students. Now, however, things are changing, as the "new Libya" moves backwards.
Recently, the academic authorities of the University of Omar al-Mokhtar, in Derna, a terrorist stronghold in eastern Libya, signed an agreement with a local Islamist militia aimed at the construction of a wall meant to segregate male from female students within the campus. The agreement also calls for the introduction of a strict dress code for female students, including the loose abaya over-garment and the hijab, covering the head and chest.
A section of the gender-segregation wall being built at the University of Omar al-Mokhtar, in Derna, Libya.
Building the wall at the University comes after two years of pressure by Islamist militias in the city of Derna: extremists denounced the University, weapons were introduced inside the campus and death threats were made to professors and students. Many professors have consequently, left Derna and are looking for jobs in Benghazi or Tripoli.
The Islamist Abu Saleem Brigade eventually offered the university administration a deal: the Islamist group would provide security on campus in exchange for the introduction of an "Islamic" dress code for female students and the construction of a wall to separate women from men. To stop the harassment, the university's president, as well as Derna's local council, accepted this proposal.
In 2013, the highest Islamic authority in Libya, Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani, himself launched a call for the separation of sexes in all workplaces, classrooms and government offices.
In a communiqué to the Libya's parliament, the government and to the leaders of different militias, the Grand Mufti asked for quick measures aimed at "moralizing" public life, saying that he received complaints about "the deterioration of morals and the widespread phenomena of free mixing between sexes, with no restrictions or regulations, in all state institutions." In the communiqué, he stated that the mixing of sexes is "immoral."
The Grand Mufti is evidently trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country and to make radical Islam the mainstream Islam in Libya. The Islamist groups clearly share his views and seem to feel supported by the Grand Mufti in the Islamization of the education system.
The new prime minister of Libya, Ahmed Maiteeg, whose support from Islamic extremists launched him to power, will doubtlessly not stop them from trying to achieve their goal.
In an interview with the Saudi-owned channel, Al-Arabiya, Libyan writer Mohammed El-Houni said that Maiteeg is supported not only by the Muslim Brotherhood, but also by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, listed as Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State.
In the meantime, other Universities in Libya are also being Islamized. The Libyan Herald reports that gender segregation and strict dress codes are to be implemented at Sirte University, halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Islamist movements seem to understand that the education system should be the first institution to be changed to shape a future Libyan Islamist society.