Sunday, February 06, 2005

Purple Means ... Sharia?

Looks like there's a great chance that some form of Sharia will be enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. We have yet to see if it's to be a soft form, where women will be only moderately less equal than men and Sharia will only determine parts of the law, or a harder form where Shiite "legal authorities" will determine most or all laws.
The leading Shiite clerics say they have no intention of taking executive office and following the Iranian model of wilayat al-faqih, or direct governance by religious scholars. But the clerics also say the Shiite politicians ultimately answer to them, and that the top religious leaders, collectively known as the marjaiya, will shape the constitution through the politicians.

Some effects are already being felt locally. In Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, where one of Ayatollah Sistani's closest aides has enormous influence, Shiite religious parties have been transforming the city into an Islamic fief since the toppling of Mr. Hussein. Militias have driven alcohol sellers off the streets. Women are harassed if they walk the streets in anything less than head-to-head black. Conservative judges are invoking Shariah in some courts.

For those who don't know, all majority Muslim nations aren't equal regarding freedom of women. Afghanistan under the Taliban was on the extreme in the repression of women, and Saudi Arabia is somewhere close to them (Women can't buy an airline ticket without a male relative's written permission, and can't go out unaccompanied by a man, for instance). Iraq actually was pretty good for women's rights: there were many women Ph.D.s under Hussein, and women in government and civil society. The veil was not required clothing.

Of course, if you spoke out against Hussein, all bets were off. But there are quite a few countries in the region -- some of whom the US supports (We don't hear Bush yelling about Saudi Arabia or Egypt, for instance) -- where speaking against the leadership is not good for your health.

It seems likely that one consequence of the invasion of Iraq will be reducing freedom for women in the country.

I somehow think we'll not hear a lot about that.

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