A Theocracy in Iraq?

A THEOCRACY IN IRAQ?….The Iraqi Governing Council has decided to approve the use of Islamic religious law ? Sharia ? instead of the existing civil law in domestic matters:

Women’s groups say the new law will abolish the previous civil law on families, which had been applied since 1959, and devolve family law to sectarian religious courts. [IGC spokesman Hamid] Kifa’i countered that the new law simply offered Iraqis the option of using religious courts voluntarily, and that the civil law would remain in effect.

“We cannot force people to apply other laws outside their [religious] rites,” he said. “The family law would enable every Iraqi to resolve all their differences on the basis of the doctrine that they believe.”

Kifa’i is trying to downplay this by saying (a) it’s not official because Paul Bremer hasn’t countersigned it and (b) it’s completely voluntary. The old courts are still available for anyone who wants to use them.

Juan Cole doesn’t buy this and I don’t think I do either. Who decides which court to use? What’s the point of giving people an option that they already have? And even if Bremer doesn’t sign off, it just means that official enforcement is put off until June 30, when sovereignty is due to be transferred to an Iraqi provisional government.

This is probably a foreshadowing of the tension between democracy and liberalism in Iraq that’s been inevitable from the start: if it’s truly the kind of democracy the neocons originally envisioned, it’s likely that Iraqis will vote to implement an Islamic theocracy of some kind. It may not be as fundamentalist as, say, Iran, but that’s liable to be small comfort once they decide they’ve had enough and start warming up the clan leaders to kick us out.

Not exactly what we had in mind when we invaded, I think.

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