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Catholics say Iraqi constitution favours Islam

Catholic leaders in Iraq are deeply concerned about a new national constitution that gives special privileges to Islam.

Bishop Shlimon Warduni of Baghdad told AsiaNews that he is gravely concerned about a constitutional provision that would strike down any law that conflicted with Islamic teachings.

The bishop saw that clause as a "dangerous precedent," and could be used to the detriment of "other religious minorities and individual freedoms."

The document was due to be signed today on the Shiite holiday of Ashura. Bishop Warduni said disagreement in the days leading up to the signing has revolved around three points: federalism, the role of Islam and the role of women in the future of Iraqi society.

According to a Provisional Governing Council spokesman, the constitution refers to Islam as "one source of legislation" but not the only one. But he pointed out that the document's wording is followed by a binding paragraph, according to which "no law will be passed if going against the teachings of Islam."

The spokesman said: "The language (of the draft) is structured in such a way so as not to offend the Islamic identity of the majority of the population, yet also so as to not offend others by giving them the impression that (Iraq) is an Islamic state."

Bishop Warduni said: "It is a dangerous precedent to set against other religious minorities and individual freedoms."

He added that that "everything will be labeled anti-Islamic -for example according to this paragraph no woman will be able to be electe president of the Republic nor could there be, according to law, any bars selling alcohol or liquor stores, and so forth."

Catholics say Iraqi constitution favors Islam (Catholic World News 2/3/04)
As draft of new constitution is signed some fears expressed: A commentary by Bishop S. Warduni ( 1/3/04)

3 Mar 2004