Saturday, September 10, 2005

If you can read Arabic I strongly suggest you read this article published today on page 9 in al-Sabah Newspaper. (Page 9.pdf – the bottom half of the page). If you can’t read Arabic the following is a sort of quick translation of my favourite bits.

Notes on Article 2 of the Constitution
(This is a pick and mix translation, please excuse)

Ala-Sabah Newspaper published on the 28th of August an article titled [The Role of Islam in the Constitution] in which the author Zuhair Sa’ad-Allah wrote “…..the secular opposition only oppose a broad article without looking into it’s meaning, the mere mention of the word (Islam) fills them with fear…….”.
Majid Jamal-ul-Deen wrote today a response to that piece, he has a wonderful sense of humour and really shows the practical implications of that article, he starts with saying

The opinion piece published on the 28th makes the whole debate sound as if it is a debate on an article in a commercial announcement and not an important legal document and the fundament for all the legislations which will guide the future of our society.
This is Article No.2

Article (2): 1st - Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:
(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules 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.
2nd - This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and the full religious rights for all individuals and the freedom of creed and religious practices.
Jamal-ul-Deen briefly talks about the vagueness of the Article in linguistic and legal terms before he jumps into paragraph (a) and asks what does “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” Mean?

From the point of view of Islamic Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) the principles of Democracy “contradict the undisputed rules of Islam”. Does this means paragraph (b) is cancelled out by the article that precedes it?......

The freedoms and rights included in the Constitution, are they to be understood and interpreted through the principles of Democracy or through Islamic Jurisprudence and its principles?.......

What does “contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam” really mean? Let’s look at some issues which have not been mentioned.
He starts with the banking system. Now for those of you who are not Muslim you might not be aware the concept of ‘Riba’. This is loosely translated as interest taken on money you have lent. This practice is forbidden in Islam. Here is a paragraph that might expalin.

“Legal scholarship has determined that much of what comprises Western-style
finance is haram, or forbidden, to the devout Muslim.

This list includes interest bearing accounts and loans which fall under the strict riba rules, most futures and options, which are considered speculative and gharar, and insurance, also gharar, because the outcome of the contract can in no way be determined beforehand (i.e. the health of the individual or business and the actual payment by the insurance company)”.


Jalal-ul-Deen reminds us that
These financial institutions which are the building units for all modern economies base their work on lending money and capital for certain periods of time and charging interest i.e. Riba......

Some might want to fool others or get fooled with these institutes calling themselves Islamic Banks which announce that they do not do Riba.
In fact this is as meaningful as changing the name of Baghdad International Airport to Saddam International Airport, the change does not mean the nature of what is being done there has changed.
And neither will it change if we replaced the name tomorrow with Baghdad Islamic Airport and stipulated that no airplane will land or take off unless it calls “Allah is great” while airplanes with no “There is no God but Allah” inscription on their sides won't be allowed to land at all.
All this will not change the nature of the operation and will probably only bring harm.

I also want to remind you that all Iraqi banks today, Commercial, Agricultural, Industrial, Investment, and all the other financial institutions we have are based on the idea of lending for interest. This institutions all practice Riba, even the Central Bank……….

Any law that regulates these operations will in itself be giving the practice of Riba a legality while the undisputed rules of Islam forbid it explicitly……..

So why not admit that this paragraph clearly is in contradiction with the objective reality we live in?
Another important issue Jalal-ul-Deen tackles is taxation of the non-Muslim citizen

In theory this constitution does not allow the legislation of a fair tax law based on citizenship. One of the undisputed rules of Islam is the differentiation between what a Muslim and a non-Muslim pays in tax. Those non-Muslims have to pay Jizya.
Wikipedia defines Jizya as “a per capita tax imposed on non-Muslim adult males.” That is of course a very broad translation and many would dispute its accuracy. I see it as is a "religious tolerance tax", you pay me and I allow you to keep you to practice your religion but that's probably an even more disputed interpretation. If you want to find out more check out these sites.

Jizya in Islam - Dr. Monqiz As-Saqqar, Umm al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia.
Fatwa on Jizyah and non-Muslim Minorities (from Islam-Online).

Back to the article, Jalal-ul-Deen asks;
So do we abandon democracy and equality in our fellow citizen’s rights regardless of faith and ethnicity as the rest of the constitution advices or do we Iraqis go back in time a thousand and four hundred years and start discriminating between those who are Muslims and those who have not yet joined the “true faith”?
He also raises the problem non-Muslims will have in openly calling for their faith (don’t know the correct word here, but you know what I mean) since in Islam it is forbidden for any other religion, or any individual for that matter, to debate openly the “verities of Islam”.
Which brings us to his last point concerning the basic right to choose your faith and religion. Islam unambiguously considers those persons who renounce Islam and choose another Faith as renegades and condemns them to death.

He concludes:
Millions of our people have had to seek refuge abroad and immigrated to other lands because of the terror of Saddam’s regime and its agents. Do I have to flee the country fearing for my life from every Muslim fundamentalist, Shia or Sunni, who sees it as his right and duty to implement Sharia Law? This person might be my younger brother and I won’t be able to take refuge and protection in this country’s laws because it will be against the “undisputed rules of Islam” to legislate laws to protect people like me.
I love this article. He is my new hero. Have to find out now who this guy is.