As the new Iraqi government takes shape, there is growing agreement among many in the administration that the country is likely to become officially an Islamic republic when the new constitution is drafted in coming months, according to informed sources in Iraq and several administration officials.
With the United Nations resolution resolved, attention will soon shift to drafting a constitution, which seems unlikely to include a provision declaring Iraq a secular democracy.
Conversations with various officials reveal that civilian administrator Paul Bremer and State Department officials—who serve as his principal advisors—are not planning to push for a clause in the new constitution that would guarantee a secular democracy. This, despite the disturbing rise in notoriety—and possibly popularity—of Moktada al-Sadr, whom the New York Times describes as a “radical, anti-American Shiite cleric.”
State Department officials, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity, stress that their department would work to ensure passage of laws guaranteeing religious freedom to supplement any constitution that named Islam as Iraq’s official religion. But as many critics of such an approach point out, laws typically are much more ephemeral and less permanent than constitutional provisions.
Even with legal protections, religious minorities such as Assyrian Christians and the Yezidis (who are neither Muslim nor Christian nor Jewish) have great reason to worry if Iraq becomes an Islamic state, not the least reason being the history of persecution experienced by other religious minorities throughout the Muslim world. Bremer’s statements that religious liberty will be ensured—though he has made such comments while allowing that Iraq could become an Islamic Republic—should offer some consolation, but the Islamists on the Iraqi Governing Council should not.
Drawing largely upon the advice and counsel of State Department officials—who comprise the bulk of Bremer’s support staff—the civilian administrator placed a number of avowed Islamists on the IGC. When Powell ventured to Iraq last month, the only member of the IGC he met with individually (aside from the Secretary of State’s counterpart) was Islamist Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, former spokesman in the 1990’s for the Dawa Party, which is responsible for the 1983 bombing of the embassy in Kuwait that killed six and injured dozens.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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