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Old 05-30-2005, 02:53 AM   #1
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Common Sense

Shiites want to limit Islamic references in Iraqi constitution
27/05/2005 Chicago Tribune - By Liz Sly
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - Shiite legislators have decided not to push for a greater role for Islam in the new Iraqi constitution out of concern that the contentious issue will inflame religious sentiments and deepen sectarian tensions.

Instead, the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that won the most seats in January’s elections, will advocate retaining the moderate language of Iraq’s temporary constitution that was drawn up under the auspices of the American occupation authority.

Humam Hamoudi, the Shiite cleric who heads the 55-member constitutional committee that will draft the new document, said that any attempt to debate the issue of Islamic law could ignite a firestorm of competing sectarian demands and that the brief references to Islam in three paragraphs of the temporary constitution should be left untouched.

"These paragraphs represent the middle ground between the secularists and those who want Islamic government, and I think the wisest course of action is to keep them as they are," he said in an interview at his Baghdad home. "Opening up the subject for discussion would provoke religious sentiments in the street."

The decision is likely to defuse what could have been one of the most divisive and rancorous issues confronting Iraqi lawmakers as they begin writing the constitution, the main function of the National Assembly elected in January.

But many controversial issues remain to be settled, and it appears increasingly unlikely that the assembly will be able to complete the constitution by the Aug. 15 deadline. Asked to rate the chances that the constitution will be finished on time, Humam replied "30 percent."

More than halfway into the time allotted, the real work of drafting the document has not yet begun and further delays are expected as politicians wrangle over ways to include members of the marginalized Sunni community in the process.

If the constitution is not ready by August, lawmakers can ask for a six-month extension, pushing back the date of the next election, scheduled for December, into the middle of next year.

The United States is pressing for the deadline to be met because any more delays in what is proving to be a violent and divisive transition period could strengthen the insurgency and set back hopes that the U.S. military can start drawing down its forces next year.

American officials also are eager to see Sunnis included in the drafting process. Otherwise there is a strong likelihood that Sunnis will reject the document, which has to be approved by a referendum before the next election.

According to the temporary constitution, or Transitional Administrative Law, if two-thirds of voters in any three provinces vote against the constitution, the document will be scrapped, fresh elections will be held for a new assembly and the process will start all over again. Sunni leaders have already warned that they will call on Sunnis in the four provinces where they are a majority to veto any constitution drawn up without Sunni participation.

But including Sunnis could be just as problematic. It took more than three months to negotiate the formation of a government that includes six Sunnis, and no one is taking any bets on how long it will take to reach a satisfactory formula for the constitutional committee.

Legislators say they hope that the process can be speeded up by borrowing wholesale from the transitional law, often called "Bremer’s law" because it was drafted under the supervision of former U.S. administrator Paul Bremer.

"We have agreed that the TAL will be the basis for our discussions. We can edit it, more or less," said Fuad Massoum, the committee’s Kurdish deputy chairman. "This way we can easily reach an agreement and finish the job on time."

The TAL says Islam should be considered as "a source of legislation," but not the sole source. The words were a point of contention during the drafting of the law, when Shiites, including new Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, pushed hard for Islam to be recognized as the only source of law.

"People are worried about the role of Islam. I think this will be the least time-taking issue because it’s been defined in the TAL and we accept that," said Ali al-Dabbagh, a Shiite legislator on the constitutional committee. He said as much as two-thirds of the TAL could be adopted in the new constitution.

Bringing Sunnis into the process will likely complicate the process, however. A Sunni bloc formed last weekend to represent Sunnis comprises mostly religious parties and clergymen, and they called for Islam to be given a stronger role in the constitution.

Many Sunnis reject the notion of using any of the transitional constitution because it was drawn up under American supervision. At a recent conference attended by a mostly Sunni crowd, speaker after speaker rose to denounce the transitional law as an "occupation" document.

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Old 08-15-2005, 01:29 PM   #2
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Iraq constitution writers miss deadline

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Members of Iraq's national assembly late Monday passed by unanimous vote an extension allowing an extra week to complete talks on the country's new constitution.

The committee drafting the document had asked for an extension after it failed to reach a compromise by Monday's deadline after months of talks. The new deadline is August 22.

Without the extension, the government would have dissolved, requiring new elections in December and starting the process again.

Two Shiite officials told The Associated Press earlier Monday that Iraqi politicians had agreed on a draft constitution but delayed a decision on two key issues. The president's office told CNN no such deal had been reached.

The day had started with Iraqi politicians confident of reaching agreement on the constitution, sparing the country's government from collapse.

Mowafak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser, said federalism -- which would give some ethnic groups more autonomy -- and the role of Islamic law in the new governmentwould not derail assembly efforts to complete the draft of a new constitution.
Sharia law, federalism

Al-Rubaie earlier insisted the assembly would resolve the sticking points and meet its Monday deadline.

He said the commission had agreed that, "a decentralized system and federal system is the best way forward," and Islamic law will not be a dealbreaker.

Al-Rubaie downplayed the role of Islam in the legislative process. He said that the commission agreed on the principle that legislation should not "contradict Islam."

The issue has been raised by Western powers -- and some Iraqis -- that the constitution will support Islam's Sharia law, which imposes severe restrictions, particularly on women.

"The issue of religion has been over-emphasized," al-Rubaie said. "We are not drafting a constitution for America. We are drafting a constitution for Iraq. And the majority of Iraqis are Muslims. And the majority of those are serious, practicing Muslims."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he had "every expectation" the document would include equal rights to men and women "and that our efforts and the effort of many women here in Iraq and the international community will ultimately pay off on this score."

Some lawmakers dispute al-Rubaie's optimistic view, particularly Sunnis who have said any draft that comes to the floor of the assembly does so without their consent.

And Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, has distanced himself from the idea of federalism.
Deadline extended

The legislative session to vote on a constitution draft -- previously slated to start at 6 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) -- was rescheduled, in two moves, to 10 p.m. (2 p.m. ET). The extension vote was finally held shortly about 11:30 p.m.

The commission of Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and secular officials who are drafting the constitution for legislative reviewearlier said it will complete its work by 9 p.m. (1 p.m. ET).

Any one of Iraq's three main ethnic groups could veto the constitution in the referendum that must ratify it -- all have majorities in at least three provinces and could carry those provinces, the transitional law requirement to block the constitution.

Iraq's Shiites and Kurds have sought autonomous regions during the constitution-writing process while the country's Sunnis wanted the issue sidelined until election of a new government.

Al-Rubaie said that a decentralized government would prevent some of the problems of Iraq's past, and he noted that the Kurds in northern Iraq have a measure of autonomy and that "any province can join with another" to create a region.

"Iraq has suffered a great deal from the strong central government," he added. "Iraq was ruled by a ruthless dictatorship using this central government to deny the communities ... of a very diversified society in Iraq."

Last week, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the influential Shiite group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, called for an autonomous Shiite region in the south, similar to the Kurdish region in the north.
Oil revenues

Despite the conflicting assessments from Baghdad, U.S. envoy Khalilzad said he believed the commission would be finished with the document in time to present it to the transitional national assembly.

Last week, Kurdish official Dr. Mahmoud Othman said that the commission had reached an agreement on oil revenues that called for that money to be paid to the federal government and distributed evenly throughout the country based on population and necessity -- but again, it was unclear where the Sunni Arabs stood on the deal.

The issue has been complicated by the fact that the oil industry is prevalent in areas dominated by Shiites and Kurds, and there have been concerns among Sunni Arabs that they would be left out.

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Old 08-20-2005, 05:23 PM   #3
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Hey, guys: I have started a "Constitution Watch" thread in the main area. I found this article and linked to it too! So, Henry the K hath spoken..

there's also an excellent article I found that Yolland has posted in my thread for me, "Philadelphia 1789 vs Baghdad 2005" in my area. I notice not too many long threads here. This is a great thread A Wanderer, but seeing as nobody has taken mine down yet, maybe you guys can come over to mine?

You know I'm generally in the antiwar camp but I promised in my thread that it would NOT be about Bush or the home front, etc, but strictly about the competing factions and events in IraqI've already tried to stop people from talking aobut Bush. I am VERY interested in seeing how this all works out..even if it isn't the real reason we're there. Plus: Dreadsox and I both love history and I love ME politics, and Dreadsox is a self-avowed Revolutionary War scholar....I'm hoping we can hasg this out in a semi-scholarly fashion.

I recommended to everyone in the Iraq threads that they go home and watch the DVD of Lawrence of Arabia this wknd to prepare for the unveliing of the Constitution. That was my "homework" for Constitution week....try it, you'll be amazed how prescient David Lean was!
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Old 09-22-2005, 09:45 AM   #4
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Personally, as a Muslim I don't really care if they institute Islamic Law or not because it will never be done properly anyways, there are too many idiots out there who think they know everything. But it puzzles me to call this "Common Sense". Do you even know anything about Shariah law from firsthand information? (ie taking a course about Islamic Law in University/College).
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Old 09-22-2005, 10:08 PM   #5
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a side note, I think they should take as long as it takes.
As long as the document is close to as great as the American Constitution, it will work fine. You can always amend.

Shouldnt rush things and end up fighting a civil war years later.
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