Iraq Constitutional Committee: We Do Not Want an Islamic
Constitution - Why Are The Americans Not Supporting
Us In This?
Ken Joseph Jr.
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
KEN JOSEPH JR.
BAGHDAD, -- On a quiet afternoon in Baghdad I waited with
some trepidation for a meeting with a member of the Preparatory
Committee for the Constitution of the Iraqi Governing Council.
the group charged with putting together the recommendations
for the new Iraqi constitution. I say with trepidation because
after conversations with Ambassador Paul Bremer and sitting
in on his testimony before Congressional Committees it seemed
clear that the Iraqi constitution would be an Islamic one.
Critic after critic I spoke to was clear that the battle
for a secular constitution for Iraq was over.
such as "they are just going to have to live with it,"
referred to the minority Assyrian Christians, of
whom I am one. As can be imagined, many Christians in Iraq
are alarmed at the prospect of a post-Saddam Iraq being
even worse than when he was in power, and that a secular
dictator will be replaced by an Islamic fundamentalist regime.
most important issue facing Iraq is in fact the constitution.
If a secular constitution is put in place establishing the
rule of law with a clear separation of church and state,
then there is truly a future for
Iraq. Having been born and raised in Japan I have lived
the miracle of what an American-imposed constitution did
for a nation in a similar state as Iraq now finds itself
in. The constitution is critical.
Ambassador Bremer when asked the question "will the
future Iraqi constitution contain the words 'Islam is the
religion of the State' replied 'that is for the Iraqis to
decide -- after all the British constitution is 'Christian.'"
clear testimony, much to the consternation of the committee
members was that they were doing the best to get a good,
secular constitution for the Iraqi people but that as a
Muslim country they really had no choice and could not insist.
Imagine my surprise when I began to speak with the representative
from the very committee charged with making the recommendations
for the constitution of Iraq.
committee will be recommending that there be no inclusion
of any ideology or religion in the constitution." I
was expecting to get into an argument as to how Iraq must
not have an Islamic constitution if there was any hope for
the country to succeed.
was completely taken aback as the representative continued.
"If there is any mention of religion or ideology or
a phrase such as 'Islam is the religion of the state,' it
will be the death of democracy in Iraq." Any
such mention would disenfranchise half of the Iraqi population
-- namely the women.
could not believe my ears. I thought the Iraqi committee
as had been clearly presented in Washington were going to
put together a constitution that was Islamic. The Coalition
was doing all it could to
persuade them otherwise but it was a losing battle.
representative continued: "The Iraqi people are secular
and will never accept any mention of this in the constitution.
We do not want to become like Iran. "We just want to
become like a normal country. We want a constitution that
is secular and gives local autonomy. It is against the teaching
of the Koran to allow religion's involvement in government.
have suffered for many, many long years under dictatorship
and we will never, never lose this chance for democracy
and freedom that has finally come to us."
was stunned! Why was the message so different? I then proceeded
to explain the testimony of Ambassador Bremer before various
congressional committees which I had attended as well as
personal conversation with him.
response was immediate anger! "That is none of Mr.
the anger turned to surprise. "We thought the Americans
wanted democracy to grow in Iraq? Why would they even think
of an Islamic constitution?"
could I say? I had no words! Why in the world would the
Americans fight a war to liberate Iraq only to let the country
fall into an Islamic government worse than the one it had
there is hope. The Iraqis are more intelligent than we give
them credit for and their message is simple. Do not speak
for us. We will speak for ourselves. We will never allow
victory to be snatched from us. We will be free.
Ken Joseph Jr., n Assyrian has been in Iraq
since before the war and is currently writing a book based
on his experiences in Iraq entitled "I Was Wrong.")
and currently in New York.