Citizens Express Support, Concern for Islamic Laws in Iraqi Kurdistan

by Armando Cordoba  – RUDAW – 1. 8. 2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As religious parties in the Kurdistan Region push for Shariah in the autonomous Iraqi enclave and rights groups warn that could curtail freedoms, citizens voice both concern and support for Islamic laws. “If they apply Islamic laws I respect it, but if they apply it just to exploit the system I am not with it. If it’s true Islam I am okay with it,” said Waleed Khalil, a Muslim in Erbil.

But Yusef Jony, a non-Muslim exiting a church in the predominantly Christian neighborhood of Ainkawa in Erbil, at first stated he did not oppose the idea, but upon finding that the civil rights of non-Muslims may be curtailed under Shariah, he expressed concern.

“I think it’s wrong to take away the rights of those who are non-Muslims,” Jony said.

Opposition Islamic parties in the Kurdistan Region have been pushing for implementation of Article 6 of the enclave’s draft constitution, which states that Shariah is the source of all legislation. Islamic opposition parties have consistently opposed the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s attempts to secularize the constitution, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population but with small Christian and other non-Muslim communities.

“It is very unacceptable to create a constitution that is opposite to the identity of the majority of the people,” Hawraz Sheikh Ahmed, the Kurdistan Islamic Union MP, said recently in a television interview.

Farmin Alil, a Muslim in Erbil, said he did not agree with the draft constitution, warning that Kurdistan should learn from Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Muhammed Morsi tried to use Shariah to curtail freedoms, before being ousted by the military in early July. “Morsi applied Islamic law in Egypt and peoples’ freedoms were taken away,” and “if Shariah law was passed in Kurdistan I believe that this would undoubtedly happen as well,” Alil said. Civil society organizations have also objected to Article 6, and called on parliament to amend it. They say it does not conform to freedom and democracy. Members for the Campaign for Freedom and Women’s Rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, a member of Kurdish parliament and other activists began circulating a petition as far back as 2007, warning that Shariah law would “inevitably produce attacks on freedom of thought and expression and restrictions on civil rights.”