State Religion Considered Harmful

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Chris Allbritton is a reporter in Iraq, working right now for Time, and he has an interesting web site,

I read his stuff usually, and he was on PBS NewsHour last night. Here's what he wrote about women and rights:

There seems to be no role for the Shi'ite hawza, women are mentioned in almost every clause that guarantees rights, the court system is independent and liberal. Islam is the official religion and 'a main source of legislation,' but religious minorities are guaranteed freedom of worship. However, no law may contradict the principles of Islam, democracy or the rights and freedoms mentioned in the constitution, which sets up an immediate contradiction when you get to the rights of women. Under some schools of Islamic jurisprudence, women's testimony are worth only half as much as a man, and they get half the share of inheritance that men get. Their custody of children can be easily abridged and marriage and divorce can be a nightmare for them. Under a human-rights focused democracy, all people are equal before the law. So what takes precedence in a dispute? The Qur'an or the Constitution?

Any rational "liberal" court would automatically recognize that the Constitution could not possibly be so obviously self-contradictory, and must rule that in a Constitution that says nothing may contradict Islam, anything in the Constitution that specifically gives rights is saying that these rights are therefore not in contradiction with Islam, according to the people who wrote the Constitution, and the people who voted for it.

What someone needs to point out to those who want Islam in the Constitution is that this is setting up the government to dictate to the people what Islam means, and that in the end it will likely say something other than what the people want it to say.

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