Financial Times reports,
Iraq’s Governing Council on Wednesday defended its approval of a controversial family law that would make it possible to apply Islamic law – Sharia – instead of civil statute in domestic matters such as inheritance and divorce.
Opponents, mainly Iraqi women’s groups, say the measure is a sop to Islamic clerics, who are holding up agreement on the national political process.
Hamid Kifa’i, Governing Council spokesman, denied the text, which was approved with no announcement, was part of a political deal with clerics. “It is not a concession to fundamentalists, we don’t have fundamentalists in Iraq,” he said.
He added that Paul Bremer, the top US administrator in Baghdad, had not signed the measure and that without the signature it would not take effect before June 30 at the earliest, when sovereignty is due to be transferred to an Iraqi provisional government.
Kevin Drum wonders whether full-blown theocracy is far behind.
This is probably a foreshadowing of the tension between democracy and liberalism in Iraq that’s been inevitable from the start: if it’s truly the kind of democracy the neocons originally envisioned, it’s likely that Iraqis will vote to implement an Islamic theocracy of some kind. It may not be as fundamentalist as, say, Iran, but that’s liable to be small comfort once they decide they’ve had enough and start warming up the clan leaders to kick us out.
Not exactly what we had in mind when we invaded, I think.
I must admit, this move is somewhat discouraging. Aside from partitioning Iraq, at least on a very strong federal or even confederal model, I’m not sure how democracy and secularism are going to be compatible there. Unless we’re willing, as we were in Japan, to simply write their constitution for them and impose our values–and we seem, oddly, not willing–then I don’t see how we avoid sharia given a Shi’a majority.
While I fully admit I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, I see no indication that we’ve crafted the institutions for a stable Iraqi democracy. Why haven’t we essentially written their constitution for them as we did in postwar Germany and Japan? We went to war for regime change. We’ve accomplished that in the literal sense of toppling and eventually arresting Saddam Hussein. But it’s not clear to me what we’ve done to ensure that the follow-on regime will be one to our liking.
I understand that we don’t want to alienate the other Arab states by appearing too heavyhanded. But we did, after all, launch a pre-emptive war to oust an Arab dictator and now have an army of occupation in the cradle of civilization. At this point, the primary objective has to be the creation of a system that gives Iraq the best possible chance we can give them to function as a stable democracy once we hand over the reins of power.
(1550): Matt Yglesias has more.