U.S. Backs Islamic Law in Iraqi Constitution

An article in The Telegraph (U.K.) says that the U.S. has abandoned any expectation of having the new Iraqi Constitution support Democracy and women’s rights.

The United States yesterday finally abandoned the fading dream of turning Iraq into a beacon of secular democracy in the Middle East, as it backed demands for the new constitution to enshrine Islamic religious law.

This raises the prospect of new laws being assessed against verses from the Koran, and risks alienating the country’s non-Muslim minorities as well as more secular Muslim groups, particularly the Kurds.

The move came 24 hours before the expiry of a deadline for the constitution to be approved, and will appease the Shias who dominated in January’s election.

Though still not going as far as fundamentalist Islamic groups had demanded – they wanted Islam to be the “sole” source for legislation – the wording marks a fundamental concession by the US as it ends the possibility of a separation of religion and state. It paves the way for far more conservative social legislation, for example diminishing the divorce rights of women, as it could allow Islamic clerics to serve on the high court, which will be responsible for interpreting the constitution.

Last Monday Iraq’s parliament approved a week long extension after no agreement on the constitution’s composition could be reached by the Iraqi delegates, primarily due to disputes over regional autonomy, the division of oil revenue and the role of Islam.

If a compromise can still not be found by today then a further extension could be agreed. But it is possible that new elections would be held to restart the process again.

Such a dissolution of parliament would be a disastrous for a peaceful resolution to the political future of Iraq, heightening already fraught sectarian tensions.

Though not part of the constitutional committee, American diplomats have been frantically exerting pressure for the document to be produced on time with its ambassador saying the US has expended too much “blood” and “treasure” for the process to fail now.

What is so sacred about having the Constitution produced “on time?” Isn’t it better to have it done right, even if that means it will take longer. It seems there are many unresolved issues besides Sharia law in the Constitution. Federalism seems to be an issue in contention right now. Let’s give them more time to get it right.

It will be more of a failure to the U.S. if Iraq is not a functioning democracy – if Sharia is the basis for the legal system – than if it isn’t produced on a particular date.