Putting The Iraqi Constitution Into Perspective

Yesterday was a historic day in Iraq as the draft of their Constitution was completed.

Here are some of the details:

“People who have viewed the document said it includes vague language weakening Iraq’s strong central government, enshrining a federalist system in which regions could split off, and addressing how oil revenue is to be split among Baghdad and the provinces.

The text calls for liberties such as freedom of expression and the press. It gives Islam a role in national affairs, while offering Iraqis the option of following civil code in areas such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.

But the drafting committee left it up to the National Assembly to sort out issues including specifics on regional rights, the language of the preamble, the removal of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath party members from government and the exact role of the presidency, officials said.

…On the divisive issue of women’s rights in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance, the constitution would allow Iraqis to choose to have the matters heard in religious courts run by clerics or in federal courts run by judges.

On the role of religion in legislation, the draft constitution calls Islam “a main source” of legislation instead of “the main source,” as many conservative Shiites had demanded. But it would allow clerics to serve on the Supreme Court.

Politicians said a formula for distributing oil revenues had been worked out, though they disclosed few details.”

Coming up with a Constitution is a tremendous step forward for Iraq, although do keep in mind that there will be a referendum in October and if 2/3rds of 3 of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject the document, they have to go back to the drawing board. That means the Sunnis, who don’t seem to be particularly happy with the Constitution, could have the opportunity to kill it. Time will tell.

But in the interim, Iraq’s Constitution should be celebrated as a big step forward. Of course, in today’s political climate where any success is a threat to anti-war politicians, you can expect to be blitzed with a massive amount of negative spin on this great accomplishment.

So with that in mind, remember two important things:

#1) We are a Western, Christian nation with more than 200 years of experience with Democracy. To expect that Iraq, which is on the other side of the world, has an entirely different culture, and has a population that is overwhelmingly Muslim, is going to produce a Constitution that looks exactly like ours is ludicrous. As a matter of fact, we often don’t even agree WITH OTHER AMERICANS on Amendments and interpretations to our own Constitution, so how can we expect to see eye to eye with the Iraqis on every issue? We can’t.

#2) We’re hearing quite understandable concerns that religion will play too much of a role in Iraqi life, that Sharia will be enforced in Iraq, or that women will be forced to wear a veil.

As to the role of religion, the Iraqis seem to have dodged the bullet there by not making Islam “the main source” of legislation, although their Constitution still isn’t as secular as ours. As far as Sharia goes, that seems unlikely. So does the veil in most of Iraq, although you could see it in certain Shia areas.

But in any case, I would just say that Iraqis wrote their own Constitution, they’re having a constitutional referendum on it, they’ll have an opportunity to amend the Constitution later, and they’ll be able to vote in their own representatives.

That’s how it works in democracies: they set their own rules, the politicians make their stand at the ballot box, and the people determine who’s right. If the Iraqi people don’t like veils or other religious laws, then you expect politicians who support those measures to be punished at the ballot box. That’s as it should be.

What it all comes down to is that Iraq isn’t an American colony, they’re a free people, and as such, they’ve got to be allowed to make their own decisions. That’s a big part of the reason we stayed on in Iraq, to help them become a democracy, and it’s good to see that the Iraqis are making very significant progress in that area…

*** Update #1 ***: Text of the proposed Iraqi Constitution.

*** Update #2 ***: A few Articles of note from the Iraqi Constitution:

Article Two

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

— a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

— b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

— c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

Article Seven

1. Any organization that follow a racist, terrorist, extremist, sectarian-cleaning ideology or circulates or justifies such beliefs is banned, especially Saddam’s Baath Party in Iraq and its symbols under any name. And this should not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq.

2. The government is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms, and works to protect Iraqi soil from being a center or passage for terrorist activities.

Article 36

The State guarantees:

1. Freedom of expression by all means.

2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.

Article 39

Iraqis are free to abide in their personal lives according to their religion, sects, beliefs or choice. This should be organized by law.

Article 135

This constitution guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of different ethnic groups such as Turkomen, Chaldean, Assyrians and other groups.

Article 151

No less than 25 percent of Council of Deputies seats go to women

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