A lot of news today about the development of the Iraqi Constitution, and the NYT magazine breaks down the difficulties:
For the Iraqis, the elephant in the room is the relationship between government and religion: can Iraq be a democracy and an Islamic state at the same time? When I worked as an adviser to the Iraqis who drafted last year’s interim constitution, this fraught question occupied the authors until almost the last minute. Leaked portions of the new constitution, still open to debate and revision, show that the matter remains as tricky as ever. Equality for all citizens is guaranteed, but Islamic law is also prescribed for marriage, divorce and inheritance. Of course, some elements of Islamic family law might mandate gender inequality; to address that possibility, one draft reportedly provides that religion would trump equality if the two conflict.
These tentative efforts to reconcile Islam and democratic equality ensure that future Iraqi legislators and jurists will have to figure out just what it means to treat Islam as ”a source of law” or, perhaps, ”a main source.” At this time, it is simply not possible to work out Iraq’s religious identity without alienating either clerics or secular rights organizations.
It has been slow going, and the WaPo is reporting that several of the authors are contemplating a delay:
Drafters of Iraq’s new constitution said Sunday they were considering a 30-day extension, in a potentially serious setback to a U.S. push to complete the charter on time.
The debate over extending the Aug. 15 deadline for drafting a new constitution came amid reports Sunday of continuing insurgent violence. At least 10 people were reported killed, including five U.S. soldiers who died in roadside bombings in Baghdad Saturday. U.S. Marines said they killed “several” insurgents early Sunday in a battle in western Iraq that involved U.S. aircraft and tanks.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had made a special trip to Baghdad on Wednesday to press for completion of the constitution by the deadline, tying it to Washington’s hopes for significant spring troop withdrawals.
But Iraq’s Shiite Arabs, Kurds and Sunni Arabs have been unable to reach agreement on topics including a Kurdish-led push for a regionally-driven system of federal government.
Under an Iraqi timetable, any request to extend the deadline for writing the constitution must be submitted the National Assembly, or parliament, by Aug. 1.
Bahaa Araji, a Shiite delegate, said constitutional committee members had decided to ask for a 30-day extension. Araji said the 30-day delay represented a compromise with delegates of the Kurdish minority, whom he said initially had demanded a six-month postponement.
“Tomorrow this request will be presented to the National Assembly, and we hope they approve it,” Araji said. The Associated Press also quoted the committee chairman, Humam Hammoudi, as saying a 30-day extension would be sought. Hammoudi later denied making such a statement.
And Reuters news agency later quoted Araji as denying that an extension had been agreed upon. Delegates were still discussing it, Araji said.
I think the appropriate way to examine this is in the context of the entire reconstruction. This is a marathon, and while the development of the Iraqi Consitution is an important milestone (just like th January vote), the race will go on. The question is, which mile-marker is this?
Let’s just hope the Constitution is one they can live with, and things get better.