Two Thumbs Down


Views on Islam's proper role reflect how one understands the purpose of the war in Iraq one year ago:

• Islamic law should be prohibited: The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was called Operation Iraqi Freedom for a reason: the American-led occupation forces must not become midwife for an anti-democratic legal system that disallows freedom of religion, executes adulterers, oppresses women, and discriminates against non-Muslims. Acquiescing to the Sharia discourages moderates while encouraging the Wahhabi and Khomeinist extremists in Iraq. Also, because Sunnis and Shiites interpret Sharia differently, its implementation promises troubles ahead.

• Islamic law should be permitted: Coalition forces entered Iraq primarily to protect their countries from a threatening regime, not to achieve Iraqi freedom. Democracy and prosperity for Iraq is just a happy byproduct. The pursuit of coalition interests does not require that Iraq's penal, family, financial, and other laws conform to Western preferences. Further, for Washington to implement its ambitious goals in the Middle East, it must have good relations with powerful Shiite leaders like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who want the Sharia in place. And if a majority of Iraqis should opt for Sharia, democracy advocates can hardly deny them their wishes.

This has the makings of a deep argument over the purposes of invading Iraq, long-term coalition goals in Iraq, and whether the Sharia is or is not inherently reactionary, iniquitous, aggressive, and misogynist.

Unfortunately, the debate is already over, before it could begin: Iraqis have decided, with the blessing of coalition administrators, that Islamic law will rule in Iraq.

They reached this decision at about 4:20 a.m. on March 1, when the Iraqi Governing Council, in the presence of top coalition administrators, agreed on the wording of an interim constitution.

That's Daniel Pipes, calling Iraq's interim constitution a victory for militant Islam.

Meanwhile, Catholic Resources describes Bishop Shlimon Warduni as "gravely concerned" about Islam's pride of place in the new document:

According to a Provisional Governing Council spokesman, the constitution refers to Islam as "one source of legislation" but not the only one. But he pointed out that the document's wording is followed by a binding paragraph, according to which "no law will be passed if going against the teachings of Islam."

The spokesman said: "The language (of the draft) is structured in such a way so as not to offend the Islamic identity of the majority of the population, yet also so as to not offend others by giving them the impression that (Iraq) is an Islamic state."

Bishop Warduni said: "It is a dangerous precedent to set against other religious minorities and individual freedoms."

He added that that "everything will be labeled anti-Islamic—for example according to this paragraph no woman will be able to be elected president of the Republic nor could there be, according to law, any bars selling alcohol or liquor stores, and so forth."

The late Tim Cavanaugh wrote about the troubles of Iraqi Christians way back when.

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  1. Did anyone think they were going to establish a secular state?
    Can a democracy exist under Islamic law…I think so, hope so!
    Did anyone think people living under a thumb for thirty years,
    suddenly have the feel for freedom of anything.
    Well, religious freedom will be the hardest one.
    I wonder if they can hold the whole place together,
    and even if they should.
    The important thing to me is that the oil flows.
    I won’t be bothered by Muslims being Islamic.

  2. You mean American-style “democracy” hasn’t rushed in to fill the power vacuum?


  3. I think we made it abundantly clear that we have shifted our manner of Constitutional thinking from a world in which a democratic Constitution – ours, preferably – is the highest, objective form of law that can be expressed, to one in which the Constitution has practical borders outside of which its tenets can be skirted or outright ignored.

    And that’s just in the 90 miles between Florida and Cuba.

    To most Saudi Arabian extremists, Shiites are apostates. It didn’t matter whether they instituted a Constitution or called Rent-A-Shah; they were fucked from the get-go.

  4. “The late Tim Cavanaugh”???

  5. Well it’s shit sure our business now. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to henceforth be held responsible for every fucked up thing about Iraq.

  6. the administration has always walked a fine line between fighting Islamic fundamentalism abroad while promoting Christian fundamentalism…Bush would risk alienating the fundamentalist Christian wing of his own party by tacitly going along with the implication that law and religious doctrine should be separated.

    I don’t know about that Jeff. In my experience with fundamentalist Christians, it really doesn’t matter how “rightous” someone is if JEE-Zus isn’t involved. Hell, most of them don’t even consider catholics or even liberal protestants to be “real” Christians.

    I think the only thing Bush could do to piss off the religious right is to fail to provide adequate protection for the inevitable Christian missionaries to Iraq.

  7. Seems like there’s a big difference between Iraqi politicians proclaming Islamic values and institutionalizing a place for Islam in Iraq’s governing constitution. That said, I believe western European nations became secular while having their own eventually ignored state religions….

  8. Ah well…

    is the glass half-empty, or half-full?

  9. Saw an article in NRO today: the phrase “Islam…A souce of law” is evidently identical to a phrase in the constitution of Kuwait (since 1965). Kuwait is already the closest thing to a democracy in the Arab world, and appears to be becoming more of one.

  10. The situation was hopeless from the beginning. Democracy — majority rule — is believed in our society to be right in itself, not just a means of protecting freedom. Thus, if the majority believes in Islamic law, with its attendant repression, what’s the US going to say? That individual rights are more important than democracy? That would be greeted with cries of “cultural imperialism.”

    “We have you outnumbered” isn’t a moral argument. To the extent that democracy is opposed to individual rights, it’s democracy which needs to be reined in. But that’s not going to happen in Iraq. Democracy and individual rights may both go down the drain, but that’s another matter.

  11. We’re all doomed. I’m just glad that garym is more doomed than I am.

  12. I have a nagging feeling that the Bush administration’s tacit support, or at least faint-hearted opposition, to the wording regarding Islamic law in the Iraqi constitution bodes ill for the separation of church and state in this country. At least its a pretty interesting parallel that Bush is pushing a marriage amendment to the US constitution, based on “Judeo-Christian” law, at the same time the Iraqi provisional congress has been allowed to draft this theological language into their document.

  13. Democracy — majority rule — is believed in our society to be right in itself

    Is it? I thought the majority rule of democracy had come to mean “tyranny of the majority” nowadays; a single court, a mere handful of glorified lawyers in black robes can undo an act of the people if the challenge – meritorious or not – is worded and executed just so.

  14. Jeff,

    That is probably extreme. The Bush administration wants a way out, and a ‘constitution’ drafted by a governing council aids in that end. Same deal in Afghanistan.

    Separation is not in the local way of thinking.

  15. True enough, Jason, but the administration has always walked a fine line between fighting Islamic fundamentalism abroad while promoting Christian fundamentalism in law and the public sphere in this country. With regard to social and sexual mores, especially, the two religious views are not that far apart. In denying religious law to Muslims, Bush would risk alienating the fundamentalist Christian wing of his own party by tacitly going along with the implication that law and religious doctrine should be separated. I don’t think this is too great a stretch in logic, particularly given the gay marriage debate.

  16. History demonstrates that religion and freedom rarely coexist peacefully. Current examples include debates about abortion and gay marriage in the U.S. and outright carnage in the less-civilized parts of the world. The great cosmic joke is that only a handful of nations has learned from the mistakes of the past. They are and will continue to be a minority, a tenuous line separating civilization from another Dark Age.

    Have a nice day.

  17. Context is important here. To many people forget that Baathism was an aggressively secular ideology grounded in Arabic, but not Islamic, supremism. Baathist sought to supress Islam and other religions as a political force. Hussein only reverted to Islamic imagery in his propaganda when he had to fight the west. Nobody in Iraq appears to have believed him sincere.

    For most people in Iraq, especially the Shia, secularism equates to fascism. We are seeing a counter reaction to years of secular repression.

    Separation of church and state on or even near American standards was never an option. Even much of Western Europe would not meet that standard.

    If we can keep a free press, universal education and basic civil order, Iraq has a chance.

  18. What Shannon said. Think of the use of the word “Christian” to mean decent, kind, and charitable, as in “It was the Christian thing to do.” I imagine most Muslim people think of their religion the same way – you pull someone’s car out of the mud, and he says, “You’re a good Muslim.”

    A little simplistic and exclusive? Sure. But the point is, it is entirely possible to think of a “Muslim” government that doesn’t mean Islamist totalitarianism, and those seeking a liberal democratic republic shouldn’t do their opponents the favor of letting them define “Muslim” to mean “theocratic totalitarian.”

  19. Ya, is he dead?

  20. Try this one: it (Iraq) is none of your business.

  21. We all need to recognize that these people have been living like this for years, its a part of their culture, their way of life. If you want to talk change they need to accept it with out us blowing it up in their face.

  22. Andrew,

    Qatar and the UAE are far more “democratic” than Kuwait; and what Kuwait has done with the phrase is not a predictor of what Iraq will do.

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