by Noah Feldman
Can a nation be founded on both Islam and democracy without
compromising on human rights and equality?
. . . the Afghan constitution is pervasively Islamic. Its first
three articles declare Afghanistan an Islamic Republic, make Islam
the official religion, and announce that "no law can be contrary to
the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution."
The new Supreme Court, which is given the power to interpret the
constitution, is to be composed of a mix of judges trained either in
secular law or in Islamic jurisprudence.
The new flag features a prayer niche and pulpit, and is emblazoned
with two Islamic credos: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is
his Prophet" and "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great"). The government is
charged with developing a unified school curriculum "based on the
provisions of the sacred religion of Islam, national culture, and in
accordance with academic principles." The provision requiring the
state to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the
family calls, in the same breath, for "elimination of traditions
contrary to the principles of the sacred religion of Islam."
And yet, the draft constitution is also thoroughly democratic,
promising government "based on the people's will and democracy" and
guaranteeing citizens fundamental rights. One essential provision
mandates that the state shall abide by the United Nations Charter,
international treaties, all international conventions that
Afghanistan has signed and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. Because Afghanistan acceded in March to the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women - a
treaty the United States Senate has never ratified - the draft
constitution guarantees women far-ranging rights against
discrimination. It also ensures that women will make up at least
16.5 percent of the membership of the upper legislative house (only
14 of 100 United States senators are women.)
. . . The draft Afghan constitution is just one possible picture of
how Islam and democracy can live side-by-side in the same political
[Noah Feldman, author of "After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic
Democracy," is a law professor at New York University. He was a
senior adviser for constitutional law to the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Iraq.]
"Democracy and Islam"
Naomi Klein, "Iraq is Not America's to Sell,"
Guardian, November 7, 2003
Robert Fisk, "How We Denied Democracy to the Middle
East," Independent, November 8, 2003
David Rennie, "Iraq appoints US citizen as its American envoy,"
The Telegraph, November 24, 2003
[Islamic Sharia law is not specifically mentioned in the draft document--"Afghans agree on new
constitution," BBC News, January 4, 2003]
[The constitution says the country will be ruled in accordance with
international codes on human rights but no law can be contrary to the
"provisions and principles of Islam".--Victoria Burnett, "Triumph for Karzai
over Afghan constitution," Financial Times, January 4, 2003]
[Fuller defines an Islamist as: "Any Muslim who believes that Islam has
something important to say about how Muslim governance and society should be
structured and who tries to implement their thinking."
The prime agenda of mainstream Islamists, he argued, is to achieve greater
social justice. Fuller stressed that America must recognise Islamist
movements as the most dominant - and often the sole - alternative to
authoritarian regimes today.--"Progress
and peace 'future of Islam'," Gulf-news.com, January 6, 2003]
Graham E. Fuller, "Islamist
Politics in Iraq after Saddam Hussein," U.S. Institute of Peace, Special Report 108
[Bremer was asked what would happen if Iraqi leaders wrote into the interim
charter that Islamic sharia law is the principal basis of legislation. "It
can't be law until I sign it," he said.--Robert H. Reid, "U.S. won't let
Islam be main source of Iraqi law," Detroit Free Press, February 17,
Arnaud de Borchgrave, "Chalabi's road to victory," United Press
International, March 29, 2004
Charley Reese, "Islamic Democrats,"
Antiwar.com, July 3, 2004