Juan Cole: Hey, Now Iraq Has a Constitution!





So they had the ceremony, and the drafting committee (minus Sunni Arab members) presented the final draft of the permanent Iraqi constitution to parliament on Sunday. But parliament did not vote on it. The Sunni Arabs did not attend. Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities toward the constitution and put it in the lap of the October 15 national referendum. Al-Hayat aptly said that the Iraqi constitution has been delivered by caesarian section. It was plucked from the womb of the drafting committee before the latter could give birth to it naturally. Sunni negotiator Salih Mutlak called it "a minefield."

Al-Hayat: Another member of the drafting committee, Sunni politician Abd al-Nasir al-Janabi, called for international intervention to prevent its being passed into law. He particularly asked for the Arab League and the United Nations to intervene. The Sunni Arab delegates noted that they were promised that the constitution drafting process would be based on consensus, and that this pledge had been the precondition for their involvement in it last June. On Sunday the Shiites and the Kurds reneged dramatically on that promise. Husain al-Falluji said that this constitution contains the seeds of Iraq's bloody partition, something, he said, that would "serve American interests."

US Ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad got carried away and called the Iraqi constitution the best in the Muslim world. Well, we could exclude Turkey's constitution because it is just a slightly reworked version of the Swiss, and so not very indigenous to the Muslim world. But what about, say, Indonesia? He should look at these powerpoint slides on the Indonesian constitution. The latter also guarantees civil liberties and equality before the law, but the Indonesian government, unlike Khalilzad, resisted demands by adherents of political Islam that Islamic law be recognized in it. The new Iraqi constitution contains a provision that no legislation may be passed that contradicts Islamic law. That provision makes the Iraqi constitution read as self-contradictory (since it also celebrates human rights and democracy), and puts it in contrast with that of Indonesia, which contains no such provision. Since 1998 democracy has flourished in Indonesia.

So why must an indigenous achievement such as the 1998-2002 amendments to the Indonesian Constitution be devalued in favor of a deeply flawed and fatally self-contradictory constitution produced in Iraq under twin Iranian and American auspices? Does everything have to be about George Bush?

Why isn't the Indonesian constitution the most progressive in the Muslim world?

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