Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Holy Shi'ite

On Fox this past weekend, I caught a snippet of Bob Beckel, Democratic campaign consultant, and Charles Krauthammer, columnist, discussing the emerging political situation in Iraq, and how the newly elected Shi'ite majority might drift toward radicalism.

Why Fox felt that Beckel and Krauthammer would be equally matched on this subject is beyond me, what with Beckel's penchant for home massages while his wife is out shopping, and Krauthammer's doctorate degree in psychology and overall brilliance in foreign policy discourse.

Beckel noted that Allawi's ticket was losing, and that the Sunnis would be extra upset about seeing one of their own relegated to the back bench.

The problem is that Allawi is a Shi'ite, and Krauthammer had to say that Beckel was an uninformed idiot on national TV. Of course that was no revelation.

But the bigger question remains. Will the Shi'ite's go radical? Is Sharia Law the ultimate destiny for Iraq? We've got contradictory reports. First, we heard that Ayatollah Sistani, spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shi'ites, was supporting Sharia as the sole source of law and legislation in Iraq, and then we heard the retractions. The issue really comes down to the difference between "the" source and "a" source:
The current wording in Iraq's interim constitution, approved in March by the country's main political parties including secular-leaning Kurds, Christians, and others, is that "Islam is the official religion of the state and is to be considered a source of legislation".

There is a huge amount hanging on that determinant. And Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney are banking on Sistani's moderation to carry the day in the drafting of their new constitution.

In 1926, Kemal Ataturk of Turkey formally abolished Sharia law. As a result, Turkey has a fully secular legal framework, taken directly from Swiss civil and Italian penal codes. In 1930, Turkish women gained the right to vote and to run for election. Had this reform not been undertaken, Turkey wouldn't be leading the Islamic world in terms of their being a fully functioning, modern democratic state.

If Sharia takes hold as the principal basis of civil life within Baghdad, our work there in overthrowing Saddam will be overshadowed. But the scenes of Muslim women queuing to dip their fingers in blue ink suggest that there might not be any turning back.