Thursday, August 28th, 2003
IN A BACKHANDED WAY, A SIGN OF PROGRESS
From Juan Cole:
*Al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, Egypt, among the preeminent Sunni Muslim religious institutions in the world, has issued a fatwa or legal ruling forbidding Muslims from any cooperation with the appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council, according to IslamOnline. It gives the text as saying, ““The council lacks religious and secular legitimacy, as it had been imposed on the Iraqis under the power of occupation and does not conform to Islam’s established principle of shura (counseling).” The ruling argued for popular sovereignty: “Iraq is an Islamic country whose government should be legitimate and set up in accordance with the principle of Shura.” This language echoes the ruling of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani saying that the delegates to the constitutional convention must be elected rather than appointed by the Americans. Popular sovereignty appears to have become a key legitimizing idea even among conservative clerics in the Middle East.
I concur. It’s a shame that Bremer did not have as much courage of our convictions regarding ” consent of the governed” as did …authoritative Sunni scholars and Shiite clergy ! Managing the constitutional outcome of an appointive process will not result in much different a political system for Iraq than would ultimately derive from letting Iraqis vote – except it will take longer and seem suspect to everyone involved.
The interesting thing about this is that essentially the Muslim world has just capitulated to John Locke on the issue of political legitimacy. They may call it ” Shura “ in traditional Islamic language but the definitional content of ” shura ” now means ” democratic consent ” and in practice, ” free elections “. How else will these scholars be able to measure ” Shura ” and prove their legitimacy to their own people and the world at large ?