Jaafari: Iraq headed toward Religious Law
On the second anniversary of the launching of the Iraq War, crowds demonstrated throughout the world. Among the larger rallies were those in London (45,000) and Istanbul (15,000). The crowds were smaller than those that demonstrated in late winter 2003 as the war was gearing up.
Such relatively large anti-American demonstrations in Turkey, which has long had secular governments and been pro-Western, are particularly worrisome.
Prospective Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari has given an interview to Der Spiegel, to appear Tuesday, in which he says his government will press for the implementation of religious law in personal status matters:
‘ “It’s understandable in a country where the majority of people are Muslim . . . Iraq should become a Muslim country but without falling under the influence of Iran or Saudi Arabia . . . Everyone will have the same rights, even members of the many minor religious communities,” he said, explaining there would be multiple forms of jurisprudence. ‘
Jaafari is using the techniques of misdirection here. The system he is proposing would put Shiites under their ayatollahs with regard to laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony, custody of children, etc. Sunnis would be under their clergy, and Catholics would be under canon law. Since 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslims, 97 percent will be under shariah or Islamic law.
Jaafari hastens to say women will not be made to veil. But in fact, in Basra and some other parts of Iraq, Sadrist and Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq young men are forcing girls to veil in public already. Nor is veiling the main issue in women’s status. Jaafari’s system will give girls half the amount of inheritance that their brothers receive, and may well make women’s testimony worth half that of a man in court. If strict gender segregation is enforced, and coeducation ended, Iraqi women may find it difficult to get post-BA training, since they won’t be allowed in the professional schools (now coded as “male”), and mostly won’t have professional schools for women, or in any case many fewer than for men.
How far the system goes toward that of Iran or Saudi Arabia remains to be seen. Just having personal status law judged according to religion is the same system that exists in Israel and Lebanon, so it isn’t exactly the end of the world or unprecedented (Iraqi personal status law was religious before the 1958 revolution).