Friday, August 05, 2005

The Stumbling Block

This development is extremely important for Iraq's future:

Women from different Iraqi rights groups met to issue a list of demands they believe will guarantee women's rights in the country's new constitution.

The informal group issued a statement demanding that Islamic law, or sharia, not be one of the sources of the constitution; that Iraq should abide by all international rights treaties and that all Iraqi men and women have equal legal rights.

It also called for female representation "in the three branches of government and in other decision-making positions (to) be no less than 25 percent."

The role of Islam remains a major stumbling block in completing Iraq's new constitution: an early draft of the constitution published in the official Al-Sabah newspaper on July 26 suggested that Islam would be "the official religion of the State" and "the main source of legislation."

The text is supported by the conservative religious Shiite majority in Iraq's parliament. The draft however is still under discussion by a parliamentary committee and subject to revision.

The question has always been, "Is Islam compatible with human rights?" I have argued many times that there are elememnts within Islam that are inimicable to the concept of individual freedom; opposed to the idea of equal rights for women; and hostile to tolerance and democracy.

I want very much to be proven wrong. Onc can look at the spontaneous freedom movements all around the world and reasonably conclude that human beings quite naturally desire freedom and self-determination. I strongly believe that this is a basic human characteristic, and that it is only those who crave power over others that work to undermine and enslave the human spirit. Islam seems bent on enslavement, but it does not have to be that way.

Iraq is a testing ground for whether Islam can be brought into the 21st century, or if it is doomed to forever languish in the barbarism of the middle ages. If Iraqis now deliberately and freely choose a course that leads to oppression and subjugation of 50% of their population and impose shar'ia law, then I, at least, am inclined to wash my hands of the lot of them.

At a minimum to be able to bring their people into the present, the Iraqi leaders must guarantees freedom and equality for all its citizens--women and men; Christian, Jew, and Muslim-- and figure out a way around the stumbling block of Islam's historical oppression of women and non-Muslims.

If they cannot; and if they completely close and lock the door to real freedom and equality under the law by implementing shar'ia in the national constitution, then we in the West will know for sure that it is Islam that is the real enemy of the Human Spirit.

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