Islamists on IGC Defeated on Islamic Law Provision
Raghida Dergham reports in al-Hayat that the representatives on the Interim Governing Council of the Islamist tendency suffered a political defeat on Friday when the IGC abrogated Directive 137, which it had issued in late December, and which put personal status law in the jurisdiction of religious courts. If implemented, the order would have abrogated the uniform civil personal status law of 1959.
An informed source reported to Dergham that IGC member Raja’ al-Khuza’i, a maternity physician who missed the first vote, was the one who insisted that the directive be reconsidered in light of the angry public response to it. (Many women’s groups had mounted protests). After a heated discussion, the measure went to a vote of the 24-member council, and the directive was voted down 15 to 9. In the late December meeting, held when Raja’i and another woman member, Songol Chapouk, were absent, the directive had passed 11 to 10.
She says that observers maintain that the vote will establish a new dynamic on the council that will be important as the IGC discusses the place of Islam in Iraqi legislation. The special meeting of the IGC called on Friday was to discuss the Fundamental Law or interim constitution it is now drafting, which was supposed to be completed by the end of February (this goal seems unlikely to be met).
The Islamists on the council are said to have left angry, and it was up to Bremer to attempt to conciliate them.
At the same time, according to ash-Sharq al-Awsat, a conference was held of secular parties in Iraq afraid that the country might move toward theocracy when the Americans withdraw. The two main Kurdish parties attended, along with Adnan Pachachi’s party, Hamid Majid Musa’s Iraqi Communist Party, and Nasir Chadirchi’s National Democratic Party.
In Kufa, Dergham reports, the young Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr renewed his threat to lead a rebellion if the US civil administrator Paul Bremer continued to reject the position that Islam be specified is the sole source of legislation in the new constitution. He said he would persevere in this path, “even if I am killed or imprisoned.” He said in his sermon, “America only came to harm Islam, but the occupiers will not be able to wipe out Islam . . . I call on the believers to be fully prepared, when the orders come from the religious leadership, to challenge the occupation.”
Muqtada added, “I call upon the governing council to announce a rebellion against the decision, and I demand of Bremer personally to retreat from his statement against Islam.” He said he would continue on this path even if he were killed or imprisoned.
In the meantime, a spokesman for the United Nations in New York considered it a positive sign that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has indicated a willingness to see elections held late in 2004. He said that if the Iraqis want to hold elections then, they would have to launch themselves into action immediately, and affirmed that the UN was ready to help. He added, “We are still waiting for a sign from the Iraqis demonstrating that they accept Brahimi’s recommendations.”