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Does the Arab spring need a bill of rights?

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In post-Muammar Qaddafi Libya, interim leaders now say they have adopted sharia as the main source of law – a common formulation in Islamic governments, which is open to a wide range of interpretation. As part of this, Libyan leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil said, marriage laws would be changed to allow polygamy.

"There is a massive disconnect between the discourse of a civil state with an Islamic reference, and the practice of substantive democratic rights on the ground," warns Mariz Tadros of the University of Sussex in Britain. "The Islamists are saying they want a civil state. But [that state] won't be civil. Bit by bit if the sharia is institutionalized, we will see an elite corps with a privileged standing making rules. Rights won't be granted without qualification ... but it will be called a democracy."

Compared to Eastern Europe's revolts

As a historic event, the Arab Spring has been compared to 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet the overthrow of the Soviet Union was achieved through years of disciplined dissident opposition and the eventual rotting of the Soviet economy.

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