January 19, 2004

Faith in Politics


The Washington Post reports: Women in Iraq Decry Decision To Curb Rights: Council Backs Islamic Law on Families. (Via LGF)

For the past four decades, Iraqi women have enjoyed some of the most modern legal protections in the Muslim world, under a civil code that prohibits marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce and male favoritism in child custody and property inheritance disputes. Saddam Hussein's dictatorship did not touch those rights. But the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council has voted to wipe them out, ordering in late December that family laws shall be "canceled" and such issues placed under the jurisdiction of strict Islamic legal doctrine known as sharia. [...]

The order, narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door session Dec. 29, was reportedly sponsored by conservative Shiite members. The order is now being opposed by several liberal members as well as by senior women in the Iraqi government.

The council's decisions must be approved by L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, and aides said unofficially that his imprimatur for this change was unlikely. But experts here said that once U.S. officials turn over political power to Iraqis at the end of June, conservative forces could press ahead with their agenda to make sharia the supreme law.

Hopefully this Islamist move by the council will be struck down by the U.S. But even if it is, there's still reason for concern considering that the new Afghanistan Constitution was allowed to be based on "sacred Islam."

Commenting on Afghanistan but with no less applicability to Iraq, David Holcberg of The Ayn Rand Institute was recently quoted at Capitalism Magazine:

The United States should demand that the new Afghan constitution include an explicit separation of state and religion. It makes no sense to have gone to war to overthrow one tyrannical Islamic theocracy just to replace it with another one. But to do that would require the current administration to identify Islamic fundamentalism as our ideological enemy and to recognize that the separation of state and religion is a crucial requirement of freedom not only in Afghanistan, but also here in America.

This is not very likely with President Bush. Just this weekend he spoke approvingly of the Afghan constitution in his radio address, and last week he renewed his push for faith-based initiatives, federal programs that would subsidize religious charities with taxpayer money.

"My attitude is, the government should not fear faith-based programs -- we ought to welcome faith-based programs and we ought to fund faith-based programs. Faith-based programs are only effective because they do practice faith. It's important for our government to understand that," [Bush] said.

The point here is not that Bush will some day force American women to wear burqas. But if he can't see the importance of separating religion and state in America, why should we believe he can see it in Iraq and Afghanistan?

(For more on this topic, see Robert W. Tracinski's America: The Secular Republic and Dare Balogun's A Stable Of Arabian Nightmares.)

Posted by Forkum at January 19, 2004 07:26 AM