Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Islam And The Iraqi Constitution

Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail has some encouraging interpretation of the text of the proposed Iraqi constitution. (Hat tip: Instapundit) The most encouraging section reads as follows:
Article Seven denounces terrorism and vows to fight it. Chapter Six, Article 151 grants the women one-quarter of the seats on the assembly. Article 36 grants “Freedom of expression by all means” and “Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.” Article 39 states “Iraqis are free to abide in their personal lives according to their religion, sects, beliefs or choice.” The rights of various ethnic groups are protected throughout the document. These are not the guarantees of an Islamist state such as that of the Taliban or Iran.
In light of concerns about women's rights in Iraq that I detailed in a previous post here, I find the provision granting women one-quarter of the assembly seats particularly good news.

I'm no expert in how Iraqi politics or law will work, but there are some areas that seem generic enough to cause problems. For example:
1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

* a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

* b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

* c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.
I would think there are some Islamic standards that would be at odds with democratic standards or essential rights and freedoms. However, the inclusion of (b) and (c) would suggest that an Islamic run state is not being created. Rich Lowry at the NRO had this to say about this section:
The Iraq draft appears to be similar. In addition to the broad bill of rights, our translation of the Islam provision states that ‘no law shall be enacted that contradicts [Islam’s] established provisions, the principles of democracy, [or] the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution.’ This is actually a better formulation than Afghanistan’s model.
Lowry also adds:
The same provision also protects ‘all the religious rights of all individuals in the freedom of belief and religious practice’ – a provision consistent with international standards and identical to the widely praised Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the interim constitution signed by the Iraq Interim Governing Council in 2004.

In addition, Islam is declared to be ‘a’ – not ‘the’– source of legislation, a victory to secularists and roughly in line with the TAL formulation.
There's a wealth of additional reactions to the text of the Iraqi constitution; much of it seems positive. I'll remain cautiously optimistic.

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