Democracy on the march. “Sharia slowly advancing in Najaf and Basra, for non-Muslims too,” by Layla Yousif Rahema for Asia News, October 20 (thanks to C. Cantoni):
Baghdad (AsiaNews) -For the past ten days, no one has been able to drink or buy alcoholic beverages in Najaf because of a bylaw adopted by local authorities. The decision comes as the latest in a series, suggesting that Sharia is being slowly implemented in Iraq, and that it also applies to non-Muslims.
Najaf is considered a holy city for Shia Muslims because the first Shia imam and fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried there. Because of the city’s special nature as a Shia holy city, the provincial council ruled unanimously that “drinking, selling or transporting alcohol of any kind in whatever quantity” was inappropriate since such activities are incompatible with Islam. Violators, even if they belong to another religion, face the possibility of being sued before a court. The ruling applies to the city of Najaf and its province and includes a ban on advertising.
It is a decision “against democracy, civil liberties and human rights,” said Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk. “It will just encourage trade in bootleg alcohol because people will continue to drink, but in secret.”
More importantly, the new rule is a sign that Islamic law is creeping into some Iraqi cities, Mgr Sako warns.
Last August for example, the Basra Provincial Council, which rules over Iraq’s second largest city, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages following a request by Shia parties, which dominate this southern region.
Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy governor of the province and a religious leader elected with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (previously known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI), motivated the ban on alcoholic beverages on the ground that Iraq’s constitution “bans everything that violates the principles of Islam.”
The problem lies with constitution itself. When the new charter was adopted, religious minorities, especially Christians, had pointed out its ambiguities.
“It guarantees respect for religious freedoms, but at the same time in Article 6 establishes that no law can be adopted that is contrary to the Muslim religion,” Mgr Sako said. “It was clear from the start that this would create serious problems for minorities.”…