"Islam is the official religion of state, and is the fundamental source of legislation. It is impermissible to pass legislation that contradicts its essential verities or its laws (its essential verities about which there is consensus). This constitution safeguards the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people (in its Shiite majority and its Sunnis) and respects all the rights of the other religions."
The paragraph above is the second paragraph of the new draft constitution of Iraq.
This will make Iraq no different than any Arab country, all of which have enshrined in their constitutions the exact same phrase "Islam is the official state religion." And we all know what a boon this has been for most Arab countries in helping them to develop democratic societies.
With this declaration, comes all the anti-democratic consequences inherent in such a declaration. With it, comes religious police. With it, comes thought crimes. And with it, comes a markedly reduced level of freedom for women, in every aspect of their social, economic, educational, and political lives. Sharia law, and how the religious/governmental powers interpret it, will govern the lives of Iraqis, especially Iraqi women. And any sense of Western democratic practice, civil law, and social justice will be defined according to the way certain men decode and construe Sharia. The draft constitution specifically gives the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf a "guiding role" in recognition of its "high national and religious symbolism." That would be like George Bush giving a "guiding role" to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. Hmmm, now I get it.
Despite the fact that most of the Kurdish people are Sunni Moslems, many of them support the idea of greater secular power for men and women both, especially in the way they govern. The Kurds are determined not to return to any circumstances where they are dominated by an Iraqi government of any kind. Their demand for autonomy, even independence, is extremely strong. Regardless of any assurances granted the Kurds in other parts of any final constitution, an Iraqi government will be compelled to decide issues within Islamic Sharia law in a context that differs from more secular and independent Kurdish interests. The potential for Kurdish reaction to Iraqi government decisions based on Sharia is high.
Under the current Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), it is required that women fill 25% of the seats in the current National Assembly (they actually have 31% of the seats). The draft constitution removes that requirement, dealing a death blow to future women's involvment in the Iraqi legislative body. To say the least, Sharia law does not look kindly on women's involvement in politics.
Once the final version of this constitution is completed by the August 15 deadline, there will be a campaign leading to a vote throughout Iraq on October 15. A two-thirds vote in at least 15 of the 18 provinces of Iraq will be required to ratify the constitution.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has made it clear how the US government sees the Iraqi constitution:
"But let me underline -- and this is, you know, our understanding, as shared by the Embassy in Baghdad as well as back here in Washington, is that first and foremost, this is -- beginning and end -- this is an Iraqi process. The Iraqis will decide the wording of their constitution. They will decide the fundamental principles that are enshrined in that constitution concerning the role of religion in their society, the rights for women, the issues of -- so-called issues of "federalism." These are issues for the Iraqis to decide. "
This fits perfectly with what Lauren Sandler was told two years ago when she asked two high-ranking military officials about women's rights in Iraq and they replied "We don't do women."