(First published at Faith & Chelsen on Patheos and reprinted with permission)
Most of the time, I am annoyed with myself for keeping every every email and sources of information either in a file on my computer — which is bad enough — or, worse, in the furthest recesses of my actual in-box. But on a regular basis, maybe as few as 6-7 times a year, maybe more, I say, “thank GOD, I kept that!”
I’m feeling that way today as the Twitter flurry goes on about Professor Noah Feldman as the amazing super duper constitutional law expert from Hahvahd. Hmm. Noah Feldman. That name is engrained in my brain forever because of a valiant, but unsuccessful, fight to keep Sharia (Islamic law, in case you have been living in a cave for the past decade — and actually, depending upon where that cave was, you might end up knowing more about Sharia than you ever wanted to!) out of the interim (and future) constitutions of Iraq.
So while the House Democrats fawn all over this legal scholar at the impeachment hearing (at least he’s not an austere religious scholar) let me share from my 2004 files what I remember about Noah Feldman.
On one side you had the professor who made girl students swoon with his wavy locks, insisting that Iraq’s constitution should include Sharia. On the other side, you had a group of us that came together because of our common concern for the Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq that were getting then — and are still getting now — the short end of the stick. (Unless that stick is being used to beat you to death, then they get the biggest one.) We tried to see U.S. policy that was not insane, and that after the sacrifice of so many American lives and so much American treasure, we helped ensure a new Iraq.
My friend Dr. Paul Marshall wrote several articles for National Review about the need for the United States to settle for nothing less than complete religious freedom in Iraq. This one, on February 19, he titled “Hold the Line on Sharia.” Marshall begins:
The George W. Bush administration has welcomed statements by Iraq’s senior Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, that he rejects the theocratic approach adopted by Iran’s ayatollahs, in which religious authorities direct the entire government. However, it seems much less aware that Sistani and several other Shiite authorities are committed to ensuring that Iraq’s constitution and legal system is based on Islamic law, as they define it, and that this poses major obstacles to President Bush’s vision of establishing Iraq as a new paradigm of freedom in the Middle East.
Marshall points out the dangers to minority religious communities and well as logical inconsistencies of attempting to say that Sharia (which by nature is hegemonic and intolerant) is “a” source of law. I have posted the links to his three articles that week, aimed at the Bush Administration and those making decisions in Iraq, but the beauty of having been there and having kept the files, is that I also have the background. For instance, in the email I received containing the above listed article included the following note received from Baghdad:
“Paul, your Feb 17 NRO piece ruffled Coalition Provisional Authority.”
What was it that ruffled the feathers at the CPA? Well, that article entitled “Ignoring Iraq’s Islamists,” observed that the neglect of the threat by radical Islamists to Iraq’s institutions could send a signal that the U.S. government did not care whether or not a future Iraq would be a religiously repressive state. Unfortunately, it did not ruffle the feathers enough.
Nor did the earnest efforts put forth by our own Institute on Religion and Democracy. Attempting, along with Marshall and his colleague, Nina Shea, at the Hudson Institute, to counter this gobsmackingly ridiculous idea of Sharia and democracy joining forces, holding hands and skipping through a field of flowers, as it were, in a paradise of Islamic Democracy, we reached out to the grassroots with an emergency email:
Subject: Immediate Action Needed for Religious Freedom in Iraq!
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 04 23:18:01 GMT
Your action is needed to help ensure freedom of religion and expression in Iraq!
The interim constitution of Iraq is due to be finalized by February 28. But the current draft does not guarantee religious liberty and freedom of expression for all. This could doom the prospects of democracy and freedom in Iraq. We believe that the U.S. government must do all it can to avert such a disastrous end.
Would you be willing to express your concern to the White House today? Please visit the IRD website for instructions and a sample letter that you can fax and email to the White House.
Will you please forward this urgent action email to your friends?
For Freedom’s Sake
Dozens and dozens of IRD supporters and followers, understanding the importance of religious freedom for Iraq, wrote letters such as this:
Dear President Bush:
To give the people of Iraq lasting political freedom, it is essential that you, as liberating Commander-in-Chief, ensures that their draft constitution guarantees religious freedom for all the people individually. It must not just be freedom for groups–even the Ottomans did that!
And the Article 4 must also specify that besides Islam, other “basic sources” of law include
“the principles of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and individual human rights.”
Otherwise Iraq will devolve into an Islamist state effectively under Sharia, and Americans will have died in vain for Iraqi freedom.
Sadly, the CPA and Paul Bremer went with Feldman’s idea that Sharia and democracy could work together, and that the religious minorities (don’t remember if they were afraid to use the word “Christians” then, as well, but I do remember that some top leaders in the U.S. team wondered when “missionaries had come to Iraq and converted people”!) would be just fine! We see the results today.
That’s the guy who has been foaming at the mouth to see the President of the United States impeached. And now it’s not just girl students who swoon, it’s the entire Left — girls, boys, girls identifying as boys, and boys identifying as girls — that swoon when Feldman says, “I don’t even think the Framers could have imagined that a president would flatly refuse to participate in an impeachment inquiry.”
I don’t think the “Framers” could have imagined this entire circus. But as Feldman has made it clear that he believes that Sharia is more “humane,” more “just” and “fair” than U.S. law, why would he care what the framers of our Constitution thought anyway? That’s just a bone for anyone who still wants to believe that he respects our system of governance.