Democracy, Islamic Law Don't Mix, Iraqi Official Says

David Thibault | Editor in Chief | Monday, April 10, 2006

Democracy, Islamic Law Don't Mix, Iraqi Official Says

( - Despite President Bush's insistence that the Iraqi "people want there to be a democracy," a pro-American member of Iraq's new parliament claims there is "no relationship between Islam and democracy."

Islamic or "sharia" law has "nothing to do with democracy or human rights," according to Iyad Jamal Al-Din, and mixing Islam and democracy "is like mixing Marxists and capitalists." Al-Din escaped Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime in 1979 but returned and was elected to the Iraqi Parliament last Dec. 15. He addressed an April 6 luncheon sponsored by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Al-Din is an outspoken supporter of the U.S. military's presence in Iraq but is critical of the new Iraqi Constitution, which he complained still relies too heavily on religious principles. Al-Din favors a secularized form of government.

Iraqi Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds face a deadline of next month in establishing a unity government, but already, there is talk that the deadline may have to be extended.

While claiming to be "convinced we are making progress [in Iraq]," President Bush is urging quick action on the formation of that unity government. I do urge the folks on the ground to get that unity government in place so the Iraqi people have confidence in their future," Bush said in Wheeling, W.Va., last week.

Ibrahim al-Jafari, Iraq's interim prime minister, declared recently that "we have to protect democracy in Iraq and it is democracy which should decide who leads Iraq. We have to respect our Iraqi people."

The U.S. is opposed to al-Jafari remaining in his post, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told NBC News last week that she also was "confident because I know that in the hearts of every human being ... there beats a desire for the human dignity that comes with liberty, with democracy, with the ability to say what you think and worship as you please and to educate your boys and your girls."

But there are many skeptics, including Bruce Tefft, a former CIA employee and Middle East expert who currently serves as the director of threat assessment for CRA, a firm assisting federal, state and local officials to prevent terrorism and manage emergencies.

"There's no way you can impose western culture and democracy and Judeo-Christian ethics on a Muslim community to start with," Tefft told Cybercast News Service. "The best that you can hope for is that they've got somebody in there that's not a radical nut like the president of Iran, or Saddam Hussein, or something like that."

Tefft said some Iraqi Shi'ites are cooperating with the U.S. in order to hasten the withdrawal of American military forces. But the cooperation is "not because they believe in democracy, because they don't," he said. Democracy is "anti-Islam," Tefft added.

"No Muslim is in favor of anything the U.S. is going to do, except we did conveniently remove Saddam Hussein, who was a nuisance to them and a burden to them and an enemy to them," Tefft said. However, "that didn't make [Muslims] our friends,"

Tefft believes it was wise to topple Saddam's regime because following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, "Iraq no longer had the capability to support international terrorism or continue its WMD development programs." However, he said, the American mission should have ended with regime change.

"Where Bush fell down was when he went into nation building," Tefft said. It was "the State Department and Washington bureaucracy that kind of sucked him into it."

Last October, Al-Din decried the "bloodthirsty interpretation" of Islam by radical Muslims in Iraq. In a separate media appearance a few months earlier, Al-Din criticized "the terrified and self-defeated Arab states [that] fear the establishment of a democratic regime in Iraq."

Those Arab states, he said, "would prefer a stupid and reckless dictator like Saddam to a democratic regime in Iraq, because the epidemic of democracy and the winds of freedom will reach them, whether they like it or not."

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