With an Aug. 15 deadline looming for completion of a
permanent constitution in Iraq, the country’s religious minorities
are increasingly fearful that it will create an Islamic government that
doesn’t protect their rights.
In the draft constitution, the role of Islam in the state has changed
from “a form of legislation” to “a main form of legislation,”
said Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom. In addition, a proposal
has been made to impose Shariah law, the strict and conservative Islamic
law, above women’s rights and the bill of rights, Shea said.
On July 19 in Baghdad, a group of women representing multiple religions
protested the inclusion of the law in the constitution under the sponsorship
of the Christian political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
“I’m fighting for the name of Christianity to be remembered
in the constitution with the same rights of other religions,” said
Yonadam Kanna, the only representative of the Christian party in the 275-seat
National Assembly and the leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.
Kanna made the comment in a telephone interview from Iraq.
Including the conservative Sunni Muslims in the constitution—which
many National Assembly officials had hoped would provide balanced representation
— has had its drawbacks, assembly officials have said. The Sunnis
have not approved the proposed system of federalism or dual citizenship
for Iraq’s exiled citizens, and maintaining the Kurdish language
is unofficial, Kanna said.
Earlier in the week, the faith-based group World Compassion said it was
launching a petition drive to urge a guarantee of religious freedom be
included in the Iraqi constitution.
In a mid-July meeting in Washington, three uncommon allies representing
Iraq’s religious minorities urged the U.S. government to recognize
their unequal treatment, particularly in the ethnically and religiously
diverse north where Kurdish Muslims have been affirmed the ruling majority.
The panel was a union of Iraqi religions typically at odds: the Chaldo-Assyrian
Christians, which include Catholics and members of the Orthodox Church
of the East; Mandaeans, who claim John the Baptist as their prophet; and