February 29, 2004

Regime Change?


This cartoon is a repost from April 24 of last year. At the time some readers thought the cartoon was our prediction of what was going to happen in Iraq, as if we were declaring the invasion of Iraq a failure. We were not. The cartoon was intended as a sort of warning, a picture of something that could happen that we did not want to happen -- the change from a secular tyranny to a religious tyranny.

Today CNN reports: Iraqis agree basic law draft.

[A spokesman for a council member] said the draft charter will recognize Islam as "a source of legislation" -- rather than "the" source as some officials had sought -- and that no law will be passed that violates the tenets of the Muslim religion.

Apparently the Iraqi draft constitution does not enshrine Islam as explicitly as did the Afghan constitution. But if no law can be passed that "violates the tenets of the Muslim religion," then it might as well. If Islam is the moral standard of the law, then all secular, western legal principles deemed anti-Islamic can easily be overruled. Property rights. Women's individual rights. Freedom of speech. All are at risk. This is territory we've already covered regarding Afghanistan (see Taliban Lite, Infant Terrible and Fundamental Change?). But it's clear that the warning expressed in the cartoon above remains valid, particularly when this news appears the same day: Religious vigilantes terrorize Basra.

Ms Inam al-Zubaidi, an 18-year-old female student, wears a headscarf to avoid harassment by fanatical religious groups.

Mr Mustafa al-Iqabi sports a beard and tries to get home by 10pm to avoid religious squads who cruise the streets at night and take the law into their own hands.

Many residents of Iraq's second-largest city worry that these vigilante groups, which have emerged in recent months, want to impose an Islamic state on Basra similar to the one in Iran.[...]

Many people blame the violence on some of the 150 small political and religious groups that have sprung up in this city of two million.

Most worrisome have been the kidnappings, and sometimes murder, of women whose actions have been deemed un-Islamic.

A few weeks ago, local newspapers reported the shooting death of a young woman who worked in a video store -- a placed deemed 'pornographic' by extremists.

UPDATE March 3: Daniel Pipes has an excellent, must-read editorial on this subject: Islamic Law Rules In Iraq.

[T]here are two reasons to see the interim constitution as a signal victory for militant Islam.

First, the compromise suggests that while all of the Sharia may not be put into place, every law must conform with it. As one pro-Sharia source put it, "We got what we wanted, which is that there should be no laws that are against Islam." The new Iraq may not be Saudi Arabia or Iran, but it will include substantial portions of Islamic law.

Second, the interim constitution appears to be only a way station. Islamists will surely try to gut its liberal provisions, thereby making Sharia effectively "the source" of Iraqi law. Those who want this change -- including Mr. al-Sistani and the Governing Council's current president -- will presumably continue to press for their vision. Iraq's leading militant Islamic figure, Muqtada al-Sadr, has threatened that his constituency will "attack its enemies" if Sharia is not "the source" and the pro-Tehran political party in Iraq has echoed Sadr's ultimatum.

When the interim constitution does take force, militant Islam will have blossomed in Iraq.

UPDATE March 5: CNN reports today: Signing of Iraqi constitution delayed.

Last-minute concerns from Shiite Muslims on the Iraqi Governing Council delayed Friday's signing of an interim constitution for the country, sources said. [...] Talk at the signing ceremony suggests second thoughts began to emerge among some members after Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, rejected the interim plan, sources said. Several Shiites objected to a provision in the document that they apparently felt would give too much power to Kurds in shaping a future permanent constitution, said Mahmud Ali Uthman, a Kurdish council member.

Posted by Forkum at February 29, 2004 10:48 PM