By Jeremy Schupbach firstname.lastname@example.org Whatever its chances of ratification over strong Sunni opposition, the new Iraqi constitution bears close study by you and me as Americans. It appears that Islam will provide a basis for law in the new Iraq. But will that be enough to hold together a fledgling democracy?
Thomas Jefferson's immortal words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," form a cornerstone for our country and our beliefs and action as a people and as a nation. The success of American democracy, and the genius of the Founders, rests in that statement. Democracy cannot long survive a society that does not believe that all men are created equal. Without a belief in the fundamental equality of man, democracies quickly become dictatorships, totalitarian states, or the playground of powerful despots where fear keeps the locals in line.
Which brings us to Islam. Islam, as I understand, does not subscribe to the belief that all men are created equal. At least Islam, as it is practiced in the Middle East does not promote equality among men (well, maybe among men, or among Muslim men, but certainly not among Jews and Muslims, or men and women, or Muslims and infidels).
Islam is a religion built around submission to Allah, and the Iraqi people are trying to reconcile a worldview defined in terms of submission with the democratic requirement that all men be regarded as equal. One possible answer is to say that “all men will be equal when all men submit to Allah” but that cannot work within a democratic government. Non-muslims, those who do not submit to Allah, would not be equal, and would most likely not enjoy the same protection under the law.
The Iraqi people have a tremendous opportunity at hand as they craft their new country, but they have many obstacles to overcome and many questions to answer along the way. An Iraq free from terrorists yet unable or unwilling to regard all of its citizens as equal will not be a free country. I believe that the success of democracy in Iraq depends more on the self-evident truth penned by our Founders than on any other single factor.