A comic convention was deemed blasphemous in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where an Islamist paramilitary group shut down a gathering of superhero fans for “inciting violence,” detaining and reportedly beating some 20 participants.
The second Libyan Comic Con opened in Tripoli on Thursday, bringing together local comic book lovers and cosplayers who dressed up as their favorite heroes. The party, however, was crashed on Friday by the so-called RADA Special Deterrence Forces (SDF) paramilitary group, which raided the event, detained some 20 people and seized computers and other equipment.
“They arrested over 20 people. Organizers, participants and visitors. Anyone who was wearing a badge, including visitors, were arrested – thinking they were organizers because they wore a badge,” an organizer told the Libya Herald online daily, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The militants told the detainees, according to the anonymous organizer, that they had committed an impressive number of crimes against public morals, which included agnosticism, atheism, masonic ideas, believing in Halloween, distorting the minds of youth and even abandoning Islam altogether.
The SDF militants said they were “rescuing” the youth from Comic Con, an event they called “destructive” and “foreign” to Islam and Libya. “This sort of festival imported from abroad exploits the weakness in their religious faith and their fascination with foreign cultures,” the SDF statement read.
The purported dangers include “dissemination of pornography” and even encouraging young people to use “sharp tools and kill.” As evidence, the statement cited artworks depicting violent scenes.
SDF had no problem with real world violence, though. ‘‘Some of those who were released had received a beating, had had their head shaved bald and were given a religious lecture. They were told that Libya was a Muslim country not a free/liberal country,” the organizer told the Libya Herald.
The Comic Con movement began in the United States in the 1970s as a convention of a small number of fans who exchanged superhero magazines in San Diego, California. The event has spread around the world since then, making it even to such ultra-conservative countries as Saudi Arabia for the first time this year.
The SDF paramilitary group originates from a hardline Islamist fighting unit which participated in toppling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Gaddafi’s ouster and assassination effectively locked the country in a perpetual civil war. The Islamist unit was later reformed and expanded into a special police force for the western UN-backed Tripoli Government of National Unity. The government is challenged by the Tobruk-based eastern administration, which is supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.