Saturday, May 28, 2005

What was That About Theocracy?

One of the main arguments of those who believe, and in some cases actively hope, that the effort to build a pluralistic, democratic Iraq will fail is the idea that a Shia majority government will inevitably create an Iranian-style theocracy. Two recent pieces of news strongly suggest that such fears are overblown:

-Iraqi Expat reports that the new government has overturned the restrictive liquor law imposed as part of Saddam Hussein's 1990's Islamization campaign. Who would have imagined that a government led by Shia religious parties would have a more liberal policy on alcohol than the allegedly secular Baathist regime?

-Meanwhile, Jihad Watch links to a news article that states that the Shia parties "have decided not to push for a greater role for Islam in the new Iraqi constitution out of concern that the contentious issue will inflame religious sentiments and deepen sectarian tensions." Instead, the language from the Transitional Administrative Law negotiated in early 2004 that describes Islam only as a source of legislation will be retained.

There is certainly some cause for concern when you look at the conduct of some Shia parties and militias in places like Basra. However, at national level, the same parties have no choice but to compromise. Theocracy in Iraq is thus an unlikely outcome.


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