Islamic Law not a problem in Bush’s Afghanistan & Iraq, but a Problem in Libya?

George W. Bush said of Iraq and Afghanistan,, “I’d like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people…”

The 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan [pdf], drafted and passed under the rule of George W. Bush in that country, makes Islam the religion of state and forbids any law that contravenes the sharia or Muslim religious law (the official translations on the Web misleadingly render ahkam or religious laws with the word “provisions,” which hides the real intent of the constitution, so I have translated those passages more literally):

“Article One Ch. 1. Art. 1: Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.

Article Two Ch. 1, Art. 2: The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article Three
Ch. 1, Art. 3

In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and laws [ahkam] of the sacred religion of Islam.

A human rights report notes:

“The Afghan Constitution and Islamic Sharia law both support polygamy, allowing men to take up to four wives. Certain conditions apply to polygamous marriages, such as the equal treatment of all wives, but these are not always observed.”

The constitution of Iraq, adopted in 2005 under the rule of George W. Bush over Iraq, says:

Article 2:
First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is the primary basis for legislation:

A. No legislation may be enacted that contradicts the established laws of Islam

B. No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy.

C. No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this Constitution.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the
Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief
and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.

Polygamy is legal in Iraq with a judge’s permission, and Iraqi legislators have been considering making it easier for men to take more than one wife in order to have the country’s vast number of war widows supported.

But the following recent statements by Libyan leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil provoked the CNN headline, “Libyan leader’s embrace of Sharia raises eyebrows:”

“As a Muslim country, we have adopted the Islamic Sharia as the main source of law. Accordingly, any law that contradicts Islamic principles with the Islamic Sharia is ineffective legally.” Jalil also urged an end to restrictions on taking more than one wife, and wanted to see Islamic banking principles instead of Western-style interest.

The Western press seems unaware that when Muammar Qaddafi came to power in 1969 he pledged to implement Islamic law or sharia and to abolish Italian and British colonial-era laws and regulations. He forbade alcohol, e.g. When in 1977 he declared Libya to be a “masses-ocracy” (Jamahiriya), he proclaimed that the holy Qur’an was the source of law or sharia for Libya.

So far, Jalil has said nothing that was not said repeatedly by his predecessor, Qaddafi. He has said nothing that is not in the constitutions and/or legal practice of Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq. But there is no hand-wringing about those two “liberated” countries and Islamic law or sharia. I guess if secular, communist Afghanistan was made fundamentalist by Reagan and Bush, or if the relatively secular Baath Party of Iraq was overthrown by W. in favor of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Call Party and the Bloc of Ayatollah Sadr II, that is unobjectionable and not even reported on. But if there’s a Democratic president in the White House, all of a sudden it is a scandal if Muslims practice Muslim law.

24 Responses

  1. 1) He also said this months ago at his Tripoli speech.

    2) Polygany was legal under Gaddafi, Libyan people just aren’t particularly in to it (even with more widows I don’t see that changing; there are still more men than women in Libya).

    3) Sharia as “principal source of legislation” is better than “sole source of legislation.” So already Libya’s draft constitution is superior to Afghanistan and Iraq.

    We’ll see what happens, but those who are credible believe the Sharia stuff is political overtures to the individuals who fought against Gaddafi (consisting of Islamists or more religious in large part; which makes sense, since it takes a bit of different mindset to go up against bullets). As I like to point out, islamists are no different culturally in the Arab world than teabaggers are here in America. Ban teabaggers and see how quick things start blowing up.

    • It’s a vague statement of principle. I have been thinking about filing a federal lawsuit myself because my rights to a “pursuit of happiness” have been continuously violated lately.

  2. It seems that this bogeyman is a favorite tool of western leaders.
    Personally, I hope Libya embraces shariah so I can emmigrate there.
    Something needs to happen here in the west. Our PM, Mr. Harper recently stated that the biggest threat to Canada is “Islamization” a word I’ve never heard but interestingly, my phone’s spelling predictor program knows very well. Ignorance about Islam is widespread and understandable when you concider the homogeneity of the MSM but I wonder if non Muslims ever think “isn’t that racism?” when they read or hear some of these rediculous statements.
    For a look at how SOME Muslims reacted to Harpers racism you can visit

  3. The mind boggles.

    One might wonder, from a limited understanding of the huge body of “Sharia” law, whether there might not be some wisdom there (in among the hyped and misrepresented “fundamentalist” bits) that the triumphant West might learn from.

    As in, as I understand it, proscriptions on the kinds of lending and central banking and securitization and derivitization that are done in the daylight, all around the planet, right out in front of G_d and everybody, building up incomprehensible piles of debt, which they magically transform into incomprehensibly grotesque piles of personal-to-them “wealth,” in the name of “liquidity” or something.

    I bet a lot of fundy Xtians would feel mostly right at home in a world run mostly on what they assume are “Islamist” principles, as long as they can drink and dope and fornicate and all that stuff that hypocrites so religiously do, whatever their dress and degree of facial hairiness, and drive huge cars and live in huge houses with pools and shop at Walmart and Macy’s.

    But hey, who’s counting? This is all about Us versus Them, or something, right, Rush?

    • Hahaaa, yer so right JT, a good many people would agree to shariah if it was put to them in a way that hid its Islamic roots. I’m thinking about the OWS people in particular but just the average American too

  4. Even bigger in the irony is how many “Chirstians” in this country who would be outraged at this want to assert that the Declaration and Constitution are Christian documents based on the biblical law. Furthermore, it seems like every now and then we have a problem with a conservative judge asserting the authority of the ten commandments in his/her courthouse. Sigh, the projection of the american right on to the islamic world is at an unbelievable level.

  5. Not to mention that the people who scream the loudest about the idea of Libya being an “Islamic Nation” are the same ones declaiming the most vociferously that the United States is a “Christian Nation” and are yammering about abortion laws.

  6. CNN’s continuing drift to the right, heading squarely into Fox territory, may partially explain the headline. The other reason is, as you suggest, far too few journalists covering the Middle East (Richard Engel at NBC and several reporters at BBC being notable exceptions) have any sense of Middle Eastern history or politics. The CNN headline about “raising eyebrows” makes it seem as if its staff went to a Bible college in Oklahoma rather than receiving any sort of real work schooling.

  7. There are quite a few countries in Europe that still have state churches and official religions.

    The statements from all three countries – and Egypt, too – about sharia could haven a whole range of meanings, including purely symbolic ones.

  8. Oh, there was plenty of Western “hand-wringing” about religion in the Iraqi constitution, and even in the US-designed Transitional Administrative Law of 2004. In February of 2004, a group of senators sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice expressing their alarm about the religious freedom provisions in the TAL and the recognition of Islam as an official religion, which they thought “could be interpreted as a negation of the bill of rights.” In 2005, another group of senators wrote to President Bush about their concerns that Islamic law would undermine women’s rights in the constitution, and there was a fair bit of commentary on newspaper editorial pages, etc., that addressed similar concerns.

  9. Ironic, isn’t it, that both Moamar’s Libya and Saddam’s Iraq were officially secular, socialist states.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by ‘ironic’ — probably nothing to do with irony — but the question is moot as the premise is totally false. As Dr. Cole pointed out in his blog post, Qaddafi’s Libya was far from secular, proclaiming the Qur’an and Sharia as the source of Islamic law. And although Dr. Cole didn’t mention it, the 1970 Constitution of Iraq — the one in force throughout Saddam Hussein’s régime — also proclaims Iraq to be an Islamic state. As a symbol of this, in 1991 Saddam Hussein added the words “Allahu Akbar” to the Iraqi flag — where they still remain under the new régime, the only change being the style of the calligraphy. These are hardly the actions of a ‘secularist’.

      • Interesting that David would apparently consider his two examples of Saddamism to be dispositively probative of the net total nature of that thing we call “Iraq,” as a (oooohh, shiver, grimace) “Islamic state.” (Please excuse me if I misunderstand the gravamen of the comment. Like all of us, I’m only human.)

        Hey, how many of our shibboleths are blazoned with that wonderful Xtianist Americanism, “In God We Trust,” or its patently hypocritical cousin, “One Nation, Under God”? Been to Utah or backwoods Appalachia or upstate Maine recently, or a lot of Catholic (dys)robing rooms, when it comes to the state of women and children?

        We are supposed to sit back in our smugness, let our “Uh-oh, Enemy Identified, Ignite HateandFear Torches” buttons be pushed by a bunch of pretextually jingoist kleptocrats, fertilized and rooted in good old Disingenuous Patriotism, and swallow wholesale the misrepresentations and simplisitiFOXifications, and Rush to judgment in a show trial where the only “evidence” the pre-biased jurors are allowed to see is either sieved from a very large litter box, or simply manufactured to suit a Narrative?

        “But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”

        link to

  10. Hello again, Dr. Cole:

    I note you refer to “the Bloc of Ayatollah Sadr II” and wondered:

    How many significant religious scholars named al-Sadr have there been, and how many of them were Grand Ayatollahs?

    I guess there’s Sadr-eddine bin Saleh, who seems to have been the founder of the dynasty, Ismail as-Sadr, Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr – I’ve seen all of these referred to as Grand Ayatollahs, I think — and then there’s the remarkable Musa al-Sadr, who seems to be termed “Imam”, and Moqtada, whose current status I’m not clear on, but who has been recognized as a Grand Ayatollah – at least by his followers – see eg here:

    link to

    It would be educational for those of us with keen interest but who lack the language skills if you could post a list with dates, titles, & one line bios at some point.

    If and when time (“in all his tuneful turning”) permits.

  11. Here’s a primer on women’s rights under Gadhaffi:

    “No Male Chaperones in Libya

    -In Libya, women are allowed to move about the city, go shopping or visit friends without a male escort.
    -Unbelievable as it sounds, throughout most of the Arab world, such freedoms are strictly forbidden. In much of Pakistan, for example, a 5 year old male child would be considered a suitable chaperone for an adult woman in the marketplace. Otherwise she’d better stay home. In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, women are frequently locked in their apartments while their husbands, brothers or fathers go off to work. Yes, there are exceptions. Some families individually reject these practices. However, before readers protest this characterization, you must be honest and acknowledge that the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saudis/Kuwaitis aren’t the only groups that constrain women’s freedoms in the Arab world. This is common social behavior throughout large swaths of Arab society.
    -In Libya, women are never locked in their homes, while their husbands, fathers and brothers go to work. Gadhaffi forbids restricting women’s mobility.
    -In Libya, women have full legal rights to drive cars—unlike their sisters in Saudi Arabia. In a lot of Arab countries, a woman’s husband holds her passport. So she cannot travel outside of the country without his approval.

    Marriage Rights:

    -Tragically, in Kabul, Afghanistan, a young woman can be locked in Prison for rejecting her father’s choice of husband. Until she changes her mind, her prospective mother in law visits the prison every day, demanding to know why her son is not “good enough” for this girl. Why does she disobey those who know what’s best for her? That poor woman stays locked up in Kabul prison until she changes her mind. And it happens right under the noses of American and NATO soldiers. A NATO Occupation won’t protect Libyan women, either.
    -All over the Arab world—from Yemen to Jordan to Saudi Arabia to Iran— fathers and brothers decide what age a young woman will be given away in marriage, usually as soon as she hits puberty— She has no choice in the most important decision of her life. Frequently a young girl gets married off to one of her father’s adult friends or a cousin. Throughout the Arab world, it’s socially acceptable for a shopkeeper to ask a young Muslim girl if she has started to menstruate. A good Islamic girl is expected to answer truthfully.
    -Not in Libya. To his greatest credit, bucking all Islamic traditions—from the first days of government, Gadhaffi said No Way to forced marriages. Libyan woman have the right to choose their own husbands. They are encouraged to seek love marriages. Under strict Libyan law, without exception no person can force a Libyan woman to marry any man for any reason.
    -Forced marriages have been such a problem throughout the Arab world, that in Libya, an Imam always calls on the woman if there is an impending marriage. The Imam meets with her privately, and asks if any person is forcing her to marry, or if there’s any reason she’s marrying this person other than her desire to be with this man. Both Najat and Imam Tentoush were very adamant on these points.
    -In Libya, the Imams are expected to protect the woman from abuse by relatives.

    Right to End a Marriage:

    -Divorce is brutally difficult for a woman throughout the Arab world. A husband can beat or rape his wife, or commit adultery or lock her in a room like a prison. No matter what a woman suffers, as a wife she has no legal rights to leave that marriage, even for her own protection. When her father negotiates that marriage contract, she’s stuck for life. A man can divorce a woman in front of two witnesses by repeating three times: “I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you.” He can text that message on a cell phone, and it’s over. The woman has no reciprocal freedom. She’s stuck in that marriage until her husband lets her go.
    -Not so in Libya. A Libyan woman can leave a marriage anytime she chooses. A woman simply files for divorce and goes on with her life. It is very similar to U.S. laws, in that a man has no power to stop her. It’s completely within her control to initiate a divorce.
    -In Libya, if a woman enters a marriage with her own assets and the marriage ends, her husband cannot touch her assets. The same is true of the man’s assets. Joint assets usually go to the woman.”

    …So is this sharia?? will be these rights still on with the new “leader”? The way they killed Gaddafi and parto of his family makes me worry about his future..

    Source: link to

    • The only quibble I have with this post is that you confuse Arab (and other) culture with Islam. The points you made about Gazaffi allowing things, well, actually, it is Islam that promotes these things. Momar

      • Much of what Ivet described is cultural, Yusuf, but much of it (even much of what appears to be cultural) is derived from and based on Shari’a law. It is simply not true that Islam promotes all the things that Ivet mentioned prevailed in Libya. Women are not free to divorce in the same way that men are. Women may only inherit half of what a male sibling may inherit. Women’s testimony in a Shari’a court is only equal half that of men’s testimony. These are but a few examples. I could go on, but the point is that it undermines your attempt to present Islam as equally tolerant as secular societies when you try to equate all good attributes to Islam and all bad attributes to culture. Islam is more than a religion; it is an all-encompassing culture. That is why Islam makes no distinction between the sacred and the secular.

        • Sorry bill, but what you think you know about Islam is either outright wrong or 1/2 expressed (the female inheritance issue being 1/2 expressed), the 1/2 a mans testimony refers to issues of business and can be superseded and you are completely wrong on the divorce issue. Shariah is similar to western law in that it is evolving and is made up primarily of opinions.

  12. Sorry, clumsy thumbs.
    As I was saying moamar was a contradiction in many ways and promoting aspects of real shariah over Arab culture while otherwise working to suppress Islam was just one example of this contradiction. This is what I meant when I said many people would embrace shariah if they were unaware of its religious roots (meaning verdicts and opinions not directly related to “religion”).

  13. sharia law will not stand long in Libya. Even when Libya will still be a conservative country in the years to come. It is more a kind of identity for most people. I live in morocco and know what i`m talking about. It has to do too with the inferiority complex which is quite heavy in the gulf region. Sadly this region is do to it`s oil money extremely influential in the arab world. when on the other hand gulf states never represented islamic civilization. It´s like giving billions to gypsies.

  14. The Libyan people should have the right to determine what kinds of laws their country will have. Half of the Libyan people roughly are women.

    It seems presumptious to me that a basically self-appointed interim leader (a man of course) would presume to decide what kind of legal the new constitution will have.

    And who really cares what Bush did or did not approve for Iraq? What has that got to do with Libya? Nothing, so this is an irrelevant argument of Juan Cole.

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