Tuesday, January 06, 2004


All credit to Afghanistan, which has approved a constitution (meaninglessly called “one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world” by the U.S. ambassador there) despite many challenges.

Two observations stem from the fact that the nation will be known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and that the constitution confirms Islam as its “sacred religion”:

First, there is a working contradiction between key elements of the document. Article Two says “Followers of other religions are free to perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.” Article Three says “In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this Constitution.” In a nation bedeviled by Taliban and warlords, that’s a lot of reliance on those last five words.

Second, the name and nature of the country and constitution makes it very unlikely -- if there was doubt -- that Iraq will be anything but an “Islamic republic” as well. With so many compromises being made there, an officially Islamic Afghanistan means the officially Islamic Iraq discussed Dec. 4 will probably not have to try very hard to also be “one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world.”

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