An Assyrian Christian minister
is sounding a note of caution about the current
situation in Iraq.
In an article titled "The Islamic Republic of Iraq
– Who Speaks for the People?"Assyrian Ken Joseph
Jr. (the Assyrians are the indigenous people of
Iraq) said a few months ago he had what he called
a troubling conversation with Iraq's new Prime
Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaffari, about the future
role of Islam in Iraq.
Joseph said he told al-Jaffari that non-Moslems
are very concerned about the influence Islam would
apparently have in the new government.
"Saddam Hussein, for all his faults," Joseph said,
"did not allow religious influence in the
government. In particular when the Governing
Council of the previous Iraqi government set up a
constitution committee they specifically voted,
across religious and ethnic lines, that there
should be no mention of ideology or religion in
the new Iraqi constitution. Why, when this was so
clear and the feeling of the Iraqi people so
clear, did you insist on having Article 7 - ‘Islam
is the religion of the nation'"?
Al-Jaffari reportedly responded, "If we did not
put Islam as the religion of the state, the people
Joseph said he told al-Jaffari, who has spent 23
years living outside Iraq, that he had lost touch
with his people.
"(Iraqis) are secular," Joseph told al–Jaffari.
"Of course there are many, in the south mostly,
who are somewhat religious, but the people do not
want any involvement of the mullahs or religious
leaders in government at all. They are very, very
clear that they do not want to become anything
even remotely like Iran."
Al - Jaffari seemed shocked, Joseph wrote, and was
about to disagree when an Iraqi aide reportedly
told him, "He (Joseph) is right. The people have
changed. They do not want any part in any form of
religion in government."
Joseph commented, "It was a very telling moment
for ... the head of the (radical Islamic) Dawa
Party ... and a close confident of Mr. Sistani,
the Iranian head of the Shiite movement in Iraq."
Then a few days ago, Joseph wrote, he talked with
Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian foreign
minister, and the man appointed by Kofi Annan to
put together a government following the handing
over of power by the Coalition Provisional
Authority in July 2004.
Brahimi was reportedly unapologetic for moving
Iraq away from its secular government, Joseph
wrote, "to an Islamic path in defiance of the will
of the people."
According to Joseph, Brahimi said, I simply
facilitated things. I have no agenda other than to
let the Iraqi people express their will."
Joseph admitted that al-Jaffari said that when in
power he would protect the rights of minorities.
Al-Jaffari reportedly told Joseph, "When things
settle down, come and see me again. I will assign
a team from the government to go with you all over
Iraq, and we will do a survey of the Assyrian
Christians to find out their needs and put in
place measures to help and protect them."
Joseph said there is still hope. "1,500 plus
American heroes did not die to create ‘The Islamic
Republic Of Iraq,' nor were lives given to deny
the poor Iraqi people their voice."
The next battle in Iraq will be over the
constitution, Joseph said. If al-Jaffari and
others "who are out of touch with the Iraqi
people" have their way, Iraq will become the
"Islamic Republic of Iraq."
However, Joseph added. "If the Iraqi peoples'
voice can truly be heard, it will be simply ‘The
Republic of Iraq.'"
Joseph said, "The world must stand on the side of
the long- suffering Iraqi people, who after
getting rid of one nightmare do not deserve to