Highlights

 
Quotable
To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man.
Michael Servetus
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
July 5, 2007

Iraqi Kurds Wrangle Over Islam


by Jim Lobe

ARBIL - Disputes have arisen within Kurdistan over the role Islam should play in a new constitution.

The Iraqi national constitution asserts Islam as the country's official religion and a major source of legislation. But not everyone wants that for a Kurdish constitution.

Secular forces call for a clear separation of religion from state, while the Islamists insist that Islam should be at least "a principal source of legislation" if not "the principal one."

Kurds have been running their own affairs for the past 16 years, but without a constitution. Divisions have surfaced now that they are going to write one.

Article seven in the draft constitution emphasizes the Muslim identity of the majority of Kurdistan people and recognizes "the principles of Islamic Sharia as one of the sources of legislation."

Secularists want to omit this reference to Islam and to the "Muslim identity" of Kurdish society, saying it will restrict the rights of certain social groups and of religious minorities within Kurdistan.

"Women will be most negatively affected by a religious constitution, and their rights in terms of divorce, inheritance, testimony, and others will be violated," says Sozan Shahab, a female member of the Kurdistan parliament in the regional capital, Arbil.

Shahab, alongside several other activists, has collected more than 4,000 signatures from Kurdish associations and political parties in a campaign to remove article seven.

Under Islamic rules a woman gets half of a man's share as inheritance, and it takes the testimony of two women in court to equal that of one man.

An early version of the draft constitution, comprising 160 articles, was released last September. The Kurdish parliament has received more than 10,000 proposals to amend the draft. After approval by the regional parliament, the draft will be put to public referendum in Kurdistan's three provinces, Arbil, Sulaimaniya, and Dohuk. Lawmakers say this will happen next year or later.

The two powerful Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraq's president Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by the regional president Massoud Barzani, say they support a secular constitution. However, during the drafting of Iraq's constitution they conceded to demands by Shia Islamic parties on a role for Islam.

That presents a serious challenge, since the Iraqi constitution says regional constitutions should not contradict the national charter. Kurdistan is currently the only autonomous region within the country.

"But, legally speaking, if you don't mention Islam it does not go against the Iraqi constitution, since you haven't alluded to its role in any way," said Shahab.

Islamists are equally fervent in rejecting a secular constitution, which they see as ignoring the will of the Muslim people of Kurdistan.

"Islam is not a religion that only concerns the personal and moral aspects of human lives," Hassan Babakr, member of the regional parliament from the Kurdistan Islamic Group, told IPS. "It is a comprehensive religion that has its own rules and program for all aspects of life, from social to economic to political and military."

Since Muslims are the vast majority of the population in Kurdistan, "the regional constitution should give a strong and prominent role to Islam," he said.

Babakr, whose party has six seats in parliament, criticized the KDP and the PUK for falling under "the hegemony of the U.S. and the West over the Islamic world" and the influence of "American military presence in Iraq."

In what was interpreted as a clear backing for a secular front, Barzani recently told a gathering of Christians and Yazidis – followers of an ancient Mesopotamian faith – that "religion ought to be separated from state."

The Kurdish region is home to tens of thousands of indigenous Christians and Yazidis, who all oppose an Islam-dominated constitution.

Amid campaigns and counter-campaigns to influence the draft constitution, both Shahab and Babakr say they will not give up until they find "success." But they do agree on one thing: they will not vote for a draft in a referendum if it is not what they want.


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback
    9/4/2008

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions
    8/28/2008

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana
    8/24/2008

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful
    8/9/2008

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East
    8/5/2008

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare
    8/1/2008

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack
    7/31/2008

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration
    7/26/2008

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition
    7/23/2008

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki
    7/22/2008

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com