8.24.2005

Religion Written into Iraq Constitution (Shhh! Don't Give the GOP Any Ideas!)



Iraq Secularists Denounce 'Islamist' Constitution

from Reuters

BAGHDAD - Secular Iraqis said on Wednesday a proposed new constitution left no room for doubt about the Islamist path the country was heading down two years after a U.S.-led invasion was supposed to produce greater freedoms.

The document presented to parliament on Monday "aborts the democratic process Iraqis hoped for and is a big victory for political Islam," said writer Adel Abdel-Amir. "Islamic law, not the people, has become the source of authority."

The draft says Islam is the official religion of the state and there can be no law that contradicts the "fixed principles of its rulings." Language guaranteeing "rights and freedoms" is subordinate to the primary position given to Islam, opponents say.

"Human rights should not be linked to Islamic Sharia law at all. It should be listed separately in the constitution," said Safia Souhail, Iraq's ambassador to Egypt.

The prominent women's rights campaigner denounced wording that grants each religious sect the right to run its own family courts - apparently doing away with previous civil codes - as an open door to further Islamicise the legal system.

Despite the brutality and despotism, the decades of Baath Party rule under Saddam Hussein left a largely secular legacy, which included relative freedom for women.

"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women," said Souhail. "But look what has happened - we have lost all the gains we made over the last 30 years. It's a big disappointment."

Iraq's state media organs have come out full guns blazing in favor of the draft. But the popular Azzaman daily said in a column on Wednesday that parliament would be better off dissolved than promulgating a document such as the draft.

"We had hoped for a secular constitution that would separate religion from state," said Mirza Dinnayi, leader of the Yazidi sect viewed by Islamists now running Iraq as devil worshippers. "A constitution that can't ensure the rights of its citizens and equality doesn't deserve to be called a constitution."

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