The Washington Post has a very disturbing piece on the Iraqi Constitution — that if true indicates that the US is actively sabotaging Iraqi democracy:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spent Saturday shuttling among Iraqi political leaders, members of Iraq’s constitutional committee said. Distribution of oil revenue dominated the talks, but no agreement was reached, delegates said. Shiite Arab, Kurdish and Sunni Muslim factions differ on how much revenue should be controlled by the government and how it should be divided.

The question of Islamic law drew strong public protests from Kurds.

The working draft of the constitution stipulates that no law can contradict Islamic principles. In talks with Shiite religious parties, Kurdish negotiators said they have pressed unsuccessfully to limit the definition of Islamic law to principles agreed upon by all groups. The Kurds said current language in the draft would subject Iraqis to extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

Kurds also contend that provisions in the draft would allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which would interpret the constitution. That would potentially subject marriage, divorce, inheritance and other civil matters to religious law and could harm women’s rights, according to the Kurdish negotiators and some women’s groups.

Khalilzad supported those provisions and urged other groups to accept them, according to Kurds involved in the talks.

“Really, we are disappointed with that. It seems like the Americans want to have a constitution at any cost,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitutional committee. “These things are not good — giving the constitution an Islamic face.

“It is not good to have a constitution that would limit the liberties of people, the human rights, the freedoms,” Othman said.

If this is true, Khalilzad should be forced into resignation immediately. Islam should be allowed to be an influence on the Constitution, but basing the Constitution on Islam or allowing Islamic clerics into government is a recipe for absolute disaster. The Iraqi people do not want theocracy, and a government that does not recognize the inalienable rights of women and religious minorities would be an insult to all those Iraqis, Americans, and other members of the coalition who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I sincerely hope Ayatollah Sistani steps in and upholds the values of the Najaf strain of Shi’a Islam. Ayatollah Sistani understand that if groups like SCIRI take over Iraq, the balance of religious power will shift away from his moderate Najaf strain of Shi’ite Islam and towards the revolutionary Qom school that teaches an integration of secular and religious authority. Ayatollah Sistani has so far upheld his interpretation of the vilâyat-i faqîh (the rights of secular versus sacred authority) as meaning that the presence of secular authority among clerics would corrupt Islam.

Ayatollah Sistani is a very wise man, and one of the greatest Islamic leaders of our time – precisely because he understood the corrosive nature of secular power on religion – while we in the West view religion as corrupting government, the same effect works the opposite way. Religious authorities who are granted with secular power tend to lose site of the spiritual side of life and can quickly fall to corruption. The genius of Ayatollah Sistani’s teachings lie in his understanding of this power and his willingness to separate mosque and state for the good of both.

The Kurds have been our strongest allies even before this war. They are phenomenally pro-American and understand all too well about the nature of oppression. We should listen to their warnings and persuade the Iraqis as best we can to adopt a Constitution that protects and preserves the rights of all Iraqis – women, Kurds, Shi’ites, Sunnis, Turkomens, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yezidis, and all the people of Iraq.

If it takes more negotiations, then fine. However, we have an obligation to help the Iraqi people create a lasting democracy, and those interests are not served by allowing it to become yet another Arab theocracy.

One thought on “Betrayal

  1. Jay-

    Do you know if this constitution will allow for former exiles to come back and retain property which they had? Large numbers of Assyrians and Chaldeans would fall into this category as well as other political refugees. I fear that one day there may be no more Assyrians or Chaldeans in Iraq due to the instability. It also remains to be seen what cultural rights will be afforded to the Turkmen who mainly live in the Kurdish north. I am very curious to see how language issues play out, if minority languages will be promoted. I am most familiar with the Assyrian case, and would hope that the Swedish based Suroyo TV is available in Iraq for that community for instance. I’d also hope Iraqi Sephardic Jews living abroad could reclaim estates. Even if the Islamic issues gets dealt with, I’d still like to hear more assurances about cultural pluralism.

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