Michael Totten

Draft of Iraq’s Constitution is Islamist (Updated)

The current draft of Iraq’s constitution doesn’t look good.

The draft also made Islam “a main source” of law in what seemed a compromise between Islamist Shi’ites and secular Kurds.

Secular Kurdish delegates had complained Khalilzad had made concessions to Shi’ite Islamists in allowing for a greater role for Islam in Iraqi law. The text said laws must not be contrary to the “fixed principles of the rules of Islam.”

There is no silver lining here, no “bright side” to look on. It’s bad news, period. At least it’s a draft. Iraqis have yet to accept or reject it. (Some Sunni Arabs are also threatening a general uprising over the issue of federalism, so it doesn’t look like the draft of this constitution is going anywhere just yet.)
Here’s the thing about Islamism: to some people it looks great on paper. It’s a real bitch when it’s put into practice. Just ask the Iranians. They know from experience what it’s actually like. The problem in Iran is that Iranians learned this the hard way too late. The Guardian Council holds all the real power. Liberals and moderates are shut out completely and violently.
Iraqis very well may go down the same Islamist road. They might have to learn the hard way what most Iranians already know. What may save them is a mechanism in the Iraqi political system — free elections outside the control of a self-appointed mullahcracy — that allows them to throw the Islamists out in future elections.
If the current draft of the constitution passes, it won’t make later reform impossible (constitutions can be amended), but it will make later reform a heck of a lot more difficult and contentious.
U.S. diplomats foolishly conceded ground to the Islamists in order to get a constitution draft out “on time.” Now they need to engage in some damage control and make damn sure Iraqis, unlike Iranians, get a built-in escape hatch.
UPDATE: The line about Islam being “a main source for legislation” in Iraq’s constitution looks better in context than it does all by itself. Below is that context. You can read the entire text of the constitution draft at Newsday.

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.
2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

Taken as a whole the constitution looks pretty good. Here are some other sections that stand out.

The State guarantees:
1. Freedom of expression by all means.
2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.
Article 37
Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.
[…]
Oil and gas are the property of all the Iraqi people in regions and provinces.
[…]
This constitution guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of different ethnic groups such as Turkomen, Chaldean, Assyrians and other groups.
[…]
No less than 25 percent of Council of Deputies seats go to women.
[…]
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.