Wave Of Demonstrations Against

Wave of Demonstrations against Abrogation of Civil Personal Status Law

az-Zaman reports a “storm” of street protests again on Thursday against the Interim Governing Council’s abolition of the 1958 civil personal status laws in favor of religious law. Az-Zaman, a modernist Arab nationalist newspaper close to Adnan Pachachi, ran several essays Thursday by Iraqi intellectuals denouncing the move as harmful to Iraq.

The Financial Times, to its credit, picked up the story for Thursday (most of the Western press had ignored it initially). It looks to me as though IGC members tried to deceive Nicolas Pelham and Charles Clover with claims such as that the IGC decree implementing religious law was “voluntary” and anyway would not be implemented because it needed Paul Bremer’s signature. You don’t need a government law to have voluntary compliance with shariah or Islamic law. If someone wants to write a will in accordance with literalist approaches to Islamic law, they already can. What is objectionable is the government imposing religious law on people who may or may not want it, and that is what the IGC is trying to do. As for the claim that Bremer won’t implement the law, just issuing the decree gives vigilante militias a pretext to pry into the private affairs of Iraqis and to impose religious practices on them.

So, the response of the Bush administration to the September 11 attack on the United States by a group of radical Islamist extremists has been to abolish secular law for Iraqi women and impose a fundamentalist reading of Islamic law on them. Yes, it all makes perfect sense.

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