You may have read in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that the Afghan loya jirga to draft a new constitution is going well. “It’s encouraging,” said the Journal, “that the moderate Muslim tradition that prevailed in the country before the decades of war seems to be re-emerging. The middle ground–that Afghanistan should be a Muslim republic ruled by secular laws that do not contravene Islamic principles–has broad support.”
Well, this was nonsensical enough on Wednesday, since “secular laws that do not contravene Islamic principles” must be in the nature of the case Islamic laws, which is itself intrinsically secular — that is, it concerns itself in great detail with the larger workings of society. A secular law that did not contravene Islamic principles regarding the rights of non-Muslim minorities, for example, would mandate their inferior status by enforcing all sorts of discrimination against them. If it didn’t do this, it would contravene Islamic principles.
Anyway, the Journal’s analysis looks even sillier today, in light of the fact that
“Afghanistan’s constitutional convention came off the rails Thursday as panicked officials adjourned the gathering in the face of a boycott by opponents of President Hamid Karzai.” This from AP.
“The delay was the most severe setback yet to this war-ravaged nation’s attempt to put its vision of a secure future on paper, and it raises real concern that the historic gathering will end in failure. Critics blamed the government for its insistence on a strong presidency and for its unwillingness to hear minority demands on such emotional issues as language rights. Others point to the machinations of warlords and faction leaders seeking a new niche if Karzai wins the powers he is seeking.
“‘There are several fundamentalists at work here,’ said Mirwais Yasini, the loya jirga’s deputy chairman. ‘The jihadi groups all want a share of the power.’
The article goes on to detail various ethnic disputes, for example: “Delegates say they cannot return to their villages without evidence that democracy will mean equal rights: Tajiks want the national anthem sung in Dari, the Farsi-related language of much of the north, as well as Pashto. Uzbeks and Turkmens want their language to be used in schools in their main regions.”
But that’s not all that’s going on: “Observers suggest that the rebellion is also being fueled and exploited by influential religious conservatives who are pursuing their own agendas. A key article in the draft has already been amended to state that no future legislation can run counter to the ‘provisions’ of Islam — seen by some as code for Shariah, the strict Islamic law.”