Afghanistan is polishing off its proposed constitution. Among the touchy wording issues: whether ""no law will be made which will oppose the principles of Islam, " or whether "no law will be made which will oppose the provisions of Islam."

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  1. How do the two words translate?
    Are we absolutely sure Islam has principles or provisions?
    … atheist speaking

  2. Wonderful. I’m sure adding provisions for sticking to a specific religion will keep the country free of war, strife, and bloodshed for… about 3 months.

    When are these idiots going to figure out that their dogma is what causes all of these problems in the first place?

  3. Well, after actually reading the story, it seems like the treatment of Islam is a victory for the moderates, apart from the “principle” vs. “provision” thing.

    And even if it says “provisions,” you could still have a decent state. Not a toally secular one, but still decent. Because “no law will violate the whatevers of Islam” is different than “we will have laws that enforce the whatevers of Islam.”

  4. As the Fall 2003 Cato’s Letter points out, the emphasis in Afghanistan and Iraq should be on creating as free a society as possible, not on “democracy” in the sense of majority rule. But the US chose to stress creating a democratic society in Afghanistan, not a free one. In Afghanistan, majority rule means Islamic rule — and Islamic rule, as Whoop says, is the cause of many of the country’s problems. The constitution supposedly will guarantee religious freedom to non-Moslems; but with one religion officially in charge, some animals will be more free than others.

    As long as people believe that tyranny of the majority is the ideal form of government, we can’t expect anything else.

  5. Well, if Afghan’s leaders (and courts) remember the phrase in the Koran about “no compulsion in Islam” … then the Constitution is less troubling.

    Also, critics of this constitution should keep in mind that sometimes to get from point A to point C, you have to go through point B. It is probably unrealistic to expect Afghanistan to form an entirely secular, church sep state government at this point in its history. On the other hand, much progress will have been made if Afghanistan evolves into a fundamentally open and free society.

  6. Gary McGath,

    You make some good points, but waiting till Afghanis are willing to accept a state based on liberal values of tolerance before we try to get them to adopt democracy would likely mean forestalling the latter indefinitely. And trying to force such values on them before they’re really willing to adopt them just means they’ll eventually be ignored and could easily set the stage for revolt. Also, while I understand the concept that liberty and democracy are not one and the same thing, I’m not so sure I buy the idea that they have nothing to do with each other. Don’t democracies (or to be more precise, states whose rulers owe their legitimacy to democratic institutions) have a much better track record at recognizing the rights of their citizenries than nondemocracies?

  7. Well, there’s a problem with the use of the word “democracy”: To some, especially people in libertarian circles, it means “Whatever 50.0001% of the population happen to want at the time.” However, when I hear people talk about democracy, I often hear them talk about freedom at the same time. There are two possibilities:

    1) They don’t realize that majority rule can undermine freedom
    2) They mean something other than “whatever 50.0001% of the population happens to want at the time.”

    Before I encountered the libertarian nightmare definition of the word “democracy” I always understood it to mean (crudely speaking) “a system of government where decisions are made and executed by people elected by and accountable to the citizens.” I was taught in grade school that free speech and a free press are necessary parts of democracy, so that we can be informed and exchange ideas as we scrutinize our public officials and decide how to vote.

    So instead of harping on the inadequacies of the word “democracy”, maybe we should simply talk about making sure that representative government doesn’t trample individual liberty. The simple fact is that for most people that I know personally, the word “democracy” doesn’t mean the nightmare scenario that it means to some libertarians.

    So, talkin about individual liberties = good. Harping on the definition of “democracy” = pointless.

  8. To elaborate on my previous post, and respond directly to another post, Gary said:

    As long as people believe that tyranny of the majority is the ideal form of government…

    I don’t think that’s what most people mean, as I discussed in my previous post. In most of what I’ve read about the process of establishing “democracy” in Afghanistan I’ve also heard plenty of discussion about how strong the new constitution’s bill of rights will or won’t be. So I don’t think anybody really thinks that “tyranny of the majority” is the ideal form of government. Mostly people just think that “democracy” means “representative government that’s accountable to and respectful toward the citizens.”

    Pretty benign concept. Pity that any discussion involving the word “democracy” quickly gets encumbered with absurd nightmare definitions of the word “democracy.”

  9. Thoreau,

    While I generally agree with you, I’m not so convinced that it is wise to dismiss the precise clarification of the word “democracy” as pointless. The reason we have the many breaches of our constitution as standard policy today is because when an issue comes up, say gun control, or taxation, the default response is “Well, if you don’t like it, vote against it, this IS a democracy.” And yes, that is true, NOW we ARE a democracy because people have failed to understand the intention of the constitution.

  10. A country without religious freedom isn’t a country worth having. We need some Japan-style nation building.

  11. Howard:

    As for having to go through point B to get from A to C, I really don’t think much improvement is on the horizon. Is this Islamic democracy really any different than an Islamic dictatorship or whatever was in place before? So what if now you have archaic, murderous, and war mongering religious rules instated because 51%+ of the population voted for them. Is that any different than having those same rules applied at the whim of a tyrant who shares the same religion as 51% of the population?

    I certainly agree that you can’t just force these people to draft a constitution of tolerance for all and expect it to work perfectly. There will be setbacks, and things will happen incrementaly, over time. But I just don’t see a constitution where religion (any religion) is given a nod as being point B along the path. If anything it is point A with a new paintjob.

  12. Islam supplies food?

  13. “On the other hand, much progress will have been made if Afghanistan evolves into a fundamentally open and free society.”

    True, but at this point much progress will have been made if they can mind their own affairs, rebuild their country, and keep it from being taken over by murderous religious fanatics.

  14. There have been times in Islam’s history when the ruling powers have been quite tolerant of other religious beliefs (primarily the other monotheistic religions, but rarely polytheism, agnosticism or atheism, at least not officially). Just like any major religion, there is room for interpretation by its adherents, and just about every strand of possible belief has dominated at one time or another, in one place or another. Given that, an “Islamic state” that is tolerant of free religious beliefs is not hard to imagine. As I mentioned before, the Koran says there should be no compulsion in Islam (of course, there are also passages that violently contradict this). So, I’m not terribly distressed by the proposed Afghan constitution. The important thing is to create a stable society where liberal values can become secure. Remember, the “absolute separation of church and state” doctrine so in vogue with the left now was hardly imagined in the 18th Century, or even as late as the early 20th Century. We have evolved as an open society because of the foundations of open society ideals by the Framers. Maybe not all of that evolution has been good, but it’s been better than the alternative. The Afghans need to build the same frame work. It won’t be perfect now, and it won’t be perfect 100 years from now, but hopefully it will be a framework that evolves into increasing freedom, security and prosperity for all Afghans.

    As for the democracy debate above … I think what a lot of people mean by “democracy” isn’t really one-person, one-vote, but “an open society.” Voting is not a cure-all for dysfunctional societies. The cure-all is “rule of law,” from which flows the pre-requisites of an open society, which makes democracy feasible.

  15. So what if now you have archaic, murderous, and war mongering religious rules instated because 51%+ of the population voted for them. Is that any different than having those same rules applied at the whim of a tyrant who shares the same religion as 51% of the population?

    I think history has shown that 51% of the population of any given country is a lot less likely to opt for murder and war than the average dictator is. The dictator, after all, still gets to live like a king, even if bombs are falling from the sky. The average person wants a peaceful life with a wife or a husband, and maybe some kids, and a steady job they enjoy.

    Which principles of Islam do you view as murderous, by the way? I would say that it’s the provisions — the “if they won’t accept our peaceful religion, kill them all!” crap — that cause the trouble. The basic “help the needy, pray, yadda yadda” stuff mostly ranges from desirable to innocuous.

  16. Wow, they really ARE making a Constitution patterned after America! Or at least the America that the Christians want it to be.

  17. “The cure-all is ‘rule of law,'”

    Yeah, that seems to be doing just fine. Nice to see all the drug users in prison as part of that cure.

  18. Rule Of Law only has real meaning when you’ve got a set of laws that you can understand. Once you have billions of them, rule of law no longer means jack shit.

  19. I completely agree with thoreau at 4:21. Democracy per se is not sufficient for freedom. Majorities can be tyrannical, too. An Islamic such would not be cool.

  20. Howard Owen is spot on. Sep of church and state evolved in the U.S. And our common law bequest from Britain has held us together– rule of law is necessary. And yeah, throwing drug users/sellers iun prison is an obscene violation of individual liberty, but ya gotta start somewhere, and on that score the U.S is as vile as any nation on the planet; it is not abiding by its founding principles. *We* have a ways to go, too, as do embryonic Islamic democracies. Even w/the war on peoplewho use drugs, we do many issues right. Give them a chance.

  21. Without freedom of Religon you cannot have freedom of speech.

  22. Ah, I see at least two commenters where are completely ignorant of what the phrase “rule of law” means. Nice.

  23. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 12:47:53
    Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes.

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