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Italian colonial rule and muslim elites in Libya: A relationship of antagonism and collaboration

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Chapter Summary

In Libya, under Italian rule, ʿulamaʾ, Sufishaykhs and other religious dignitaries played an important role, as Islam not only legitimated the resistance but also became a fundamental element in colonial policies. However, the relationships between the colonial authorities and the religious elites, beyond what the colonial laws prescribed, have as yet not been examined, except for the Sanusiyya order. This chapter aims to fill this research gap, focusing mainly on the region of Tripolitania. In the compilation of a national history and its public use in independent Libya the role of notables and chiefs accused of collaborationism has scarcely been investigated. The position of notables and chiefs is usually classified dichotomously: resistance or collaboration. In fact, the hypothesis that ambivalence was a feature of the relationship of most Muslim notables with the Italian colonial authorities seems more plausible; they always oscillated between collaboration and antagonism.

Keywords: ʿulamaʾ training; antagonism; Italian colonial rule; Muslim elites in Libya



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