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Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Religious intolerance in Iraq

There was an interesting discussion on the Iraqi Constitution at WaPo. The participants were, Preeta Bansal , attorney and a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Robert Blitt , international law specialist and senior policy adviser for Iraq at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The situation in Iraq is quite troubling. I've cut and pasted some highlights of the discussion, below.

[..] The drafts have Islamic law principles pervade numerous aspects of the Bill of Rights, and even make the individual rights guarantees in the constitution subject to (and able to be superseded by) Islamic law -- and so the rights guarantees for non-Muslims and non-believers (and even for Muslim believers who do not subscribe to the majority sect or the state-imposed version of Islam) could be impaired by official interpretations of Islam. This is contrary to the requirements of international law, and certainly would undermine a successful democracy in Iraq by chilling rights of expression, political debate and dissent, individual thought, and full participation in political and public life by all Iraqis.

[..] I think it's a decent sign both of the security issues plaguing Iraqis in general, as well as a sign that religious tension and conflict indeed have exacerbated. We such rising religious tension also in the flight of the non-Muslim communities from Iraq (e.g., Chaldo Assyrians, Mandaeans, and others), the bombing of ancient Christian churches in Iraq, and the ever-widening chasm and violence between Sunni and Shi'a Muslim communities.

[..]I would just add to Preeta's comments that the warning signs of religious intolerance run deeper than the shuttering of liquor stores: there have been numerous reports that women - Muslim as well as non-Muslim -- are being compelled to wear the veil against their will, some university campuses are being forced to use separate entrances for men and women, non-Muslims are being forced to renounce their faith, and even barbers are being targeted for assassination as a consequence of offering to shave beards or give "western" haircuts.

The drafts of the constitution currently circulating reject religious freedom in a number of ways: (1) they make Islam not only "a source" of law, but the "basic source of legislation" -- and do not mention other possible sources, such as international human rights obligations (as do many other Muslim countries' constitutions), or the bill of rights guarantees in the constitution itself; (2) they provide that several members of the constitutional court may be shari'a jurists, with no training in civil law -- thus putting the Iraqi judiciary in the company of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan; (3) they provide that no law may be enacted which opposes the principles and rules of Islam, thus putting in the hands of the constitutional court (shari'a) jurists the final authority of determining whether legislation may be enacted; and(4) they provide that most of the bill of rights guarantees -- such as the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech -- may be curtailed by ordinary law.

Read the whole thing here or here.


Anonymous shei m. said...

I really wonder if the Iraq government is doing something about it.

6:37 AM  

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