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Unfree Under Islam

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Here’s a passionate argument by Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali against the barbarity of shari’a law, amid signs that the new Iraqi Constitution may be hopelessly compromised: Unfree Under Islam.

Hamam Hamoudi, the head of Iraq’s constitution committee, refuses to discuss the article that worries the Muslim women. He also refused to put in the draft constitution that men and women have equal rights, creating a bizarre situation whereby the women had more rights under Saddam Hussein’s regime than in post-Saddam Iraq. Mr. Hamoudi insists that women will have full economic and political rights, but the overwhelming evidence shows that when Shariah—which gives a husband complete control over his wife—is in place, women have little chance to exercise any political rights. Does Mr. Hamoudi realize that it took the removal of Saddam and the establishment of a multiparty democracy for men to vote, while if his draft constitution is ratified, women will need the permission of their husbands to step out of the house in order to mark their ballot? I thought that President Bush and all the allies who supported the Iraq war aspired to bring democracy and liberty to all Iraqis. Aren’t Iraqi girls and women human enough to share in that dream?

Under Shariah, a girl becomes eligible for marriage from the moment she starts to menstruate. In countries where Islamic law is practiced, child-brides are common. Do the drafters of the constitution grasp what this will mean for the school curriculum of girls or the risks of miscarriages, maternal fatalities and infant deaths? These and other hazards that affect subjugated women are common phenomena in the 22 Arab-Islamic countries investigated in the Arab Human Development Report. An early marriage also means many children in an area of the world that is already overpopulated and poor.

The draft Iraqi bill of rights favors men in other respects, such as the right to marry up to four wives, and the right to an easy divorce, without the interference of a court, simply by repeating “I divorce you” in the presence of two male witnesses. A wife divorced in such a fashion will receive an allowance for a period of three months to one year, and after that period nothing. On the other hand, if a wife wants a divorce, she must go to court and prove that her husband does not meet her material needs, that he is infertile and that he is impotent. Once a divorce is finalized, if there are children, the custody of the children will automatically go to the father (for boys at age 7 and for girls from the start of menstruation). Inheritance based on the Shariah means that wives will get only a small portion of the property of their husbands and a sister will get half what her brother gets.

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