A letter written by the Administration of the General Authority of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in eastern government of Al-Thanni unveiled how it had given permission for a Saudi Arabian sheikh, who is of Palestinian descent, Osama Ataya Al-Etibi, to proselytize and give religious preaching, seminars, and lectures in the areas he desired in coordination with the districts’ Awqaf and Islamic Affairs offices.
The Saudi cleric, Al-Etibi, is one of the well-known advocators of the so-called Madkhalism – a Salafist movement based on the writings of Rabee al-Madkhali – and he had been involved in Afghanistan fighting.
“The Saudi cleric is being hosted by the self-styled General Command of Dignity Operation.” The letter says, which has created questions among many Libyans as to the nature of hosting a radical religious cleric by a military leadership, especially that the cleric’s religious convictions are very distant from the Libyan society, thus raising skepticism high as regards the loyalty and independence of Haftar’s military.
Meanwhile, several residents from eastern Libyan cities like Al-Bayda have time and time again expressed discomfort of the fact that the General Authority of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs has been altered from a state institution, which should control mosques’ affairs and religious preaching, into an entity that advocates for an extremist religious ideology and allows the extremists to tighten a grip on it.
A big number of Madkhali followers are now fighting alongside Haftar’s forces based on fatwas issued by their sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, and Al-Etibi, who is hosted by Haftar, is an example.
Despite the fact that those fighters, who are loyal to Madkhalism, are civilians, they have formed a number of brigades and are now fighting along with Haftar’s Dignity Operation, such as the infamous Tawheed brigade. Some of this brigade’s leaders are accused of abduction, torture, and killing in the eastern Garnada prison.