Sunday, February 06, 2005

The State of the (other) Union

There has been a bit of a silence from the left about the Iraq elections. I guess maybe because if you aren't a hawk, being happy about them makes you seem a bit as if you are. While the President gave a very self-congratulatory State of the Union, and Republican lawmakers pointed purple fingers around, as if they had done something heroic themselves, actual Iraqi voters risked death in their first elections. (I think this last particularly arrogant. See: You Do Not Own Their Courage.) It just reeks of some powerful imperial force civilizing the savage natives, and patting themselves on the back for their moral superiority.

But I've heard no one doubt that elections in Iraq are unequivocally a good thing. For the first time, a nation of people gets to control their own destiny. Unfortunatly, it doesn't look like it's the sort of destiny Americans probably want for them. The majority Shiites seem to be flexing their new political muscle. And conservative Islamic clerics seems to be a very powerful force in that movement. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a Shiite cleric,and those like him may be very influential when writing the Iraqi constitution. They are trying to get Shariah law enshrined as the law of the land in the dawn of this new nation.

From the linked NY Times article:

The clerics generally agree that the constitution must ensure that no laws passed by the state contradict a basic understanding of Shariah as laid out in the Koran. Women should not be treated as the equals of men in matters of marriage, divorce and family inheritance, they say. Nor should men be prevented from having multiple wives, they add...

"We don't want to see equality between men and women because according to Islamic law, men should have double of women," said Muhammad Kuraidy, a spokesman for Ayatollah Yacoubi. "This is written in the Koran and according to God."

Remember Shariah law is what Muslims invoke when they require women to move about dressed in black burkahs (Afghanistan) or stone adulterous women to death (Nigeria). Women in Basra (second largest city in Iraq) are already being pressured to wear the burkhas in public. I haven't read anything about it, but something tells me it won't be particularly safe for me to visit the New Iraq.

It's great that Iraqis are finally electing their own government. But what will we do if they decide to elect another Taliban?

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