Reporters on the Job

Interpreting Iraq's Charter : Staff writer Dan Murphy reports today on the final draft of the Iraq constitution (page 1). But whether the new constitution is approved in the Oct. 15 referendum may not be as significant as other changes. "There are many countries with wonderful constitutions - the last Iraqi constitution under Saddam Hussein wasn't too bad - that are simply ignored by their despotic leaders," says Dan. "There are other countries that seem to get along pretty well without one - England comes to mind."

He suggests that, "What really matters is the development of a political culture that carefully safeguards the interpretation and use of a constitution as a nation goes forward."

The Iraq constitution, for example, remains ambiguous on key points. Take Article 2, which states that: (a) No law can be passed that contradicts the fixed principles of Islam; (b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy; (c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution. The constitution goes on to say that "Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination because of sex, ethnicity, color, religion, sect, belief, opinion, or social or economic status."

"This sounds good," says Dan. "But I know of many interpretations of 'the fixed principles of Islam' that would immediately come into conflict with both points A and B. A few Muslims think democracy is unIslamic; the vast majority of Islamic scholars say that Islam demands fairly sharp limits on 'basic freedoms,' particularly those of women. In the end, it will come down to how these three rules are interpreted by future Iraqi lawmakers."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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