Appearing before a women’s group in Karbala, Bremer promised there’d be none — theocracy, that is — in Iraq if he had any say in the matter. And he does, of course. No Iraqi charter can be law, he said, “until I sign it.” And no charter that uses Islam as its “main source” (reporter’s words, not Bremer’s) will win that John Hancock.
If ever there was any doubt that the U.S. is engaged in a holy war, this apparent aside should end those doubts. The U.S. is fighting against one religious worldview, in favor of another.
It’s hard to be opposed to his rationale, namely that Islamic law might impinge on women’s basic rights — even if his reason for protecting those rights, the fact that women workers are needed for economic growth, seems less than noble.
But there are other rights getting trampled here, those of self-determination, and the even larger principle of democracy. Edicts from above on what kind of Islam will be allowed in Iraq are not democratic.
Nor, for that matter, are they free of religion. Bremer’s insistence on a liberal, enlightenment future for Iraq is both as practical and as theological as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani‘s demand for popular elections. The path on which Bremer would set Iraq winds all the way back a church door, with a man named Martin Luther.
This underreported story has domestic significance as well. With just a few words, Bremer has shifted the ground beneath U.S. soldiers’ feet. Until now, one could at least argue that they were fighting to bring democracy to Iraq; now, they are fighting to keep a particular variety of Islam out of Iraq, and they are led in part by a man who seems to have very little understanding of what Islam is — a “faith-based community” indeed, a vision of life in which God and the world are not separate spheres of influence, but one and the same. Some scholars would even argue that without some kind of Islamic law, there is no Islam.
And some soldiers, and their families, might argue that without a leadership that understands the varieties of religious experience in Iraq, or a press that can distinguish between democracy and enlightenment theology, there will be no end to this war.
Or maybe not — that’s a question for religion writers to explore.