The Gaddafi Code

Theological ruminations from the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution:

LIBYAN leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi believes it was not Jesus who was crucified at Easter, “but someone who resembled him”.

In a bewildering speech at a mass prayer meeting in Niger, Col. Gaddafi also said it was a mistake to believe that Christianity was a universal faith alongside Islam.

Well, it’s only “bewildering” if you don’t know the Koran:

And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him – they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him. [4:157]

The story is also famously found in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, an ancient Gnostic text:

They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.

But back to the Colonel:

“It is a mistake that another religion exists alongside Islam. There is only one religion which is Islam after Mohammed,” he said in the sermon.

“All those believers who do not follow Islam are losers,” he added.

The “prayer meeting” was an international conference held to coincide with the birthday of Muhammad, and it provided an opportunity for Gaddafi to position himself as a leader of African Islam: among other things, he used the occasion to mediate between some Ugandan Muslim groups. He also attacked a rival force for Islam in Africa; IslamOnline reports:

Gaddafi, who has been entrenching his influence in Africa over the past few years, launched a diatribe at Wahabis in Saudi Arabia.

He accused them of obliterating the tombs of the Prophet and his companions under the pretext to protecting Islam from superstitions.

Gaddafi also called for a “second Fatimid state” for Africa, and distanced himself further from the Arab world.

Outside observers, however, are less than impressed. Martyn Drakard writes from Kampala that

Colonel Gaddafi is wrong about Christianity in Africa. Libya is trying to win converts to Islam through grants to Islamic communities for mosques and schools. Less than one kilometer from where I sit, perched on Old Kampala Hill, is one of the most beautiful mosques in Africa, started by Idi Amin and completed recently with Libyan money. But Christian conversions are on the increase in Africa, and Gaddafi’s provocative sermons will have little effect. It will require more than impressive buildings to bring about the mass conversions he is so confident will come to pass.

One Christian writer accuses Gaddafi of being irresponsible:

…These were bewildering remarks given the religious tensions in which the world is engulfed. The world has recently witnessed a series of protests because of the “irresponsible and blasphemous” remarks against Islam and the Prophet Mohamed. Such events raised a consciousness that religious ethnocentrism is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and religious leaders ought to be responsible.