Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 21, 2003 / 19 Nissan, 5763

Diana West

Diana West
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

In Iraq, is democracy is in the eye of the beholder? | After roughly 100 Iraqi exiles, sheiks and clerics gathered in a fortified and air-conditioned tent in Iraq this week to begin piecing together their country's future, U.S. Central Command headquarters released a 13-point summary of the meeting. This included the outcome of the historic first vote in Saddam-free Iraq (the Iraqi proto-body voted to meet again in 10 days) and a string of high-minded resolutions.

Point one said "Iraq must be a democracy;" point three said "the rule of law must be paramount;" and point four stated that the country "must be built on respect for diversity including the role of women." No word as yet on how "respect" for "diversity including the role of women" translates into legal or political rights; maybe that comes at the next meeting.

Meanwhile, there's something positive to be said about the plain-spoken certitude with which some of these democratic building-blocks are being laid out, at least on paper. But such energy is lacking in another key point on the list. Point six is downright phlegmatic which it comes to noting, merely, that "the meeting discussed the role of religion in state and society."

It did, did it? Well, what did "the meeting" say? Nothing that could be distilled into a declarative point of consensus. Which shouldn't be surprising. The most intractable problem facing democratic reform in Iraq (or anywhere else in the Muslim world) is how to reconcile that founding principle of democracy - the separation of church and state - with Islamic law, which is predicated on the inseparable union of religious and political power.

"Those who would like to separate religion from the state are simply dreaming," a conference participant told the New York Times, echoing a line that resounds with much of Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim majority. At least one Iraqi Shi'ite cleric at the big-tent planning session, Sheik Ayad Jamal al-Din, however, disagreed. "Dictators may not speak in the name of religion," he said, calling for a "system of government that separates belief from politics." (Let's hope such a "system" is an improvement on a dictatorship that is secular.) Sheik al-Din's is a rare voice of dissent. More typical is the comment of another Shi'ite imam to Agence France Presse: "Our objective is to set up an Islamic state, because this is the supreme ambition of all Arab and Muslim countries. All Muslim countries would like to see their governments applying sharia (Islamic law)."

This doesn't bode well for democracy, fledgling or otherwise. As Islamic scholar Ibn Warraq explains in his book "Why I am Not a Muslim," Islamic law "tries to legislate every aspect of an individual's life. The individual is not at liberty to think or decide for himself; he has but to accept G-d's rulings as infallibly interpreted by the doctors of law, " or clerics. Another problem is that Islamic law limits, or even "denies the rights of women and non-Muslim religious minorities." Which, of course, is no way to run a democracy.

We have already begun to see elements of sharia re-introduced into post-Taliban Afghanistan, where, as Freedom House's Nina Shea has warned, a "theological iron curtain" is dropping across the country, even as the United States pours in hundreds of millions of political and economic reconstruction dollars. Will that happen in Iraq? It's too soon to tell, of course - but not too soon to make ourselves acutely aware of the possibility.

Nor is it too soon to develop a really good nose for similar developments elsewhere. Citing an article in the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon, Cybercast News Service reports that the new Palestinian constitution - the creation of which is considered a prerequisite for reforming the Palestinian Authority - defines not a democratic republic, but an Islamic state. Not a good sign. And this week in France, La Republique found itself taking an unexpected step closer to sharia, European-style, with the surprising electoral success of the Union of Islamic Organizations, an Islamist group that preaches Islamic law for France, which between 5 and 10 million Muslims now call home. Having won a big chunk of seats on the new Islamic council created by the government to foster "an official (read: moderate) Islam for France," the decidedly un-moderate group has earned its place at the government table.

This prompted surprisingly tough talk from Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkosy: "It is precisely because we recognize the right of Islam to sit at the table of the republic that we will not accept any deviation. Any prayer leader whose views run contrary to the values of the republic will be expelled." And there was more: "Islamic law will not apply anywhere," he said, "because it is not the law of the French republic."

Not yet, anyway. But who knows what can happen in a democracy.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

04/14/03: The greatest generation gap
03/31/03: The great gap between the West and the Middle East
03/21/03: They just wouldn't shut up!
03/10/03: Sorry apologies for speaking the truth
03/03/03: The Eurabian alliance
02/24/03: Searching for good news
02/18/03: Love and honor -- lost, found and murdered
02/03/03: A calm that causes concern
01/27/03: Playing politics with a T-shirt mentality
01/21/03: When understanding the East means losing the West
01/13/03: Is a war on Jews a war on democracy?
01/06/03: Bush must take a stand on affirmative action
12/30/02: Questions for reflection on 2002
12/16/02: The pre-emptive war goes Hollywood
12/09/02: Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan?
11/25/02: Something to contemplate this Ramadan
11/08/02: Does Eminem now fit in?
11/04/02: No time for gloating
11/04/02: What's in a name when the name is Muhammad?
10/28/02: Jihad as a First Amendment right
10/21/02: When speaking out isn't allowed
10/14/02: Terrorism in Maryland and abroad
09/30/02: So long urgency, hello indulgence
09/24/02: That one, sturdy, missing word
09/17/02: Fingerprinting, finally
09/09/02: When 'healing' overshadows reality
09/04/02: Tales from the Techno Valley and Forest
08/16/02: Elvis shall rise again
08/14/02: War with Iraq won't harm war on terror
08/06/02: Clinton snaps over Somalia
08/01/02: 9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
07/27/02: An unstable common ground
07/25/02: Hillary fights hard for soft money
07/12/02: Goretheus unbound
07/10/02: Rosie takes a shine to Republicans
07/08/02: Are you still shocked, Sami?
07/02/02: Can Britney win hearts of the Middle East?
06/28/02: A war on terror or Islamists?
06/25/02: Blame the murderer, and the messenger
06/21/02: Up front and personal with Atta
06/18/02: Terrorism at the United Nations
06/11/02: Who's policing the INS?
06/07/02: Spa Gitmo
06/04/02: Can rock gods save the queen?
05/31/02: Hillary's war
05/29/02: Have you forgotten we're at war?
05/24/02: An antiquated luxury of the past
05/21/02: From terrorists to tourists
05/19/02: Hate U.
05/07/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
05/03/02: Pioneering television
05/01/02: Western self-loathing numbs us to violence
04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West