Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Iraqis discuss their constitution 

A very important event is taking place in Amman without much fanfare and publicity. So far only the newswire agency UPI has reported on it, and only the "Washington Times" and "World Peace Herald" have picked up the story.

What's all the non-fuss is about? Top Iraqi politicians are gathered in the Jordanian capital right now together with foreign experts to try to iron out the general shape of the new Iraqi constitution:
"Whether or not to include 'sharia,' or religious law, in the constitution is expected to be a part of the discussion, said Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an adviser to Ibrahim Jafaari, an interim vice president and a moderate Shiite Muslim now considered to be the top candidate for the post of prime minister.

"Jafaari is No. 2 on the United Iraqi Alliance list of politicians which took an estimated 47 percent of the vote in a Jan. 30 election to seat a new 275-member assembly. The constitutional conference was largely kept under wraps because of security concerns, but it includes foreign constitutional and legal experts, al-Kadhimi said.

" 'Where do religion and civil law intersect?' al-Kadhimi said Sunday. 'Foreign countries are worrying to see the outcome, but we don't see that religion will play a big part in this constitution.'

"Most Iraqis feel they should not impose their personal religious beliefs on others, al-Kadhimi said. In addition, the new assembly's mandated 25 percent female members will serve as a moderating force, Jafaari said. Six interim ministers are women, Jafaari pointed out -- a higher percentage of the 30 ministers than any other public job in Iraqi society...

"Sunni Muslims who boycotted the election but now want to join in writing the constitution should be invited to help, Jafaari said.

"In fact, Jafaari's message of inclusiveness and reconciliation is similar to that of other top prime minister candidates, from Adel Abdul Mehdi, a key member of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, currently interim finance minister and No. 6 on the Alliance list to and Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim who has lived in the United States for more than 30 years and is No. 5 on the list.

"When explaining the role religion should play in the new constitution, Mehdi uses the example of a religious doctor whose beliefs have nothing to do with his job other than making sure he does it well. Mehdi was said to have withdrawn from furious negotiations surrounding the post Tuesday after receiving major concessions from other politicians."
The Constitutional Convention it might not quite be, but it certainly sounds promising. Pity that the media doesn't seem to be paying much attention.

My best wishes for Iraq's Alexander Hamiltons, Benjamin Franklins and James Madisons.


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