Any notion that we intend to install a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan has been demolished by the passage of a new constitution creating another Islamic state. There is no question this is far better than the Taliban, but the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom had warned that a “Taliban-lite” regime was in the making. That has come to pass.
A New York Times editorial highlighted the fact that the constitution “specifically grants equal rights to women, even promising two Parliament seats in each province to women.” That means 25% of the seats in the lower house of parliament have been set aside for women. Support for this is to be expected from the Times, which is ardently pro-feminist and thinks there is nothing wrong with a constitutional quota to guarantee that a certain number of women serve in the national government, regardless of how many votes they may receive.
One radical feminist here commented that this percentage is greater than we have in most state legislatures in America. Yet the Bush administration, working with the U.N., has made this a reality in Afghanistan. A “women’s rights expert” from the U.N. hailed the new document as the beginning of “a new era of gender equality in the country.” It’s strange that the administration opposes the use of quotas here in the U.S. but supports them in Afghanistan.
A New York Times story hailed the Afghanistan constitution for “combining democracy and religion.” But in the U.S. the Times always invokes the specter of the “separation of church and state” to make sure that Christian values don’t influence the conduct of public policy. The new document establishes Afghanistan as an Islamic state with an official state religion, Islam, and says no law shall be contrary to Islam. The national anthem of Afghanistan will include the phrase, “Allah is great.” The Times headlined its editorial, “Islamic Democracy,” but think of the outrage it would direct on anyone anywhere who would dare call the U.S. a “Christian democracy,” based on the founding documents and the views of the founding fathers.
A dispatch from the Christian Broadcasting Network is the only place we saw it emphasized that the new Afghan constitution may restrict religious freedom for those who don’t practice Islam. The constitution says that, “Followers of other religions are free to perform their religious ceremonies within the limits of the provisions of law.” But the law is implemented in deference to “Islamic jurisprudence” and an individual right of freedom of religion is not explicitly recognized. The exercise of such rights must not offend Islam, as determined by judges who will be practicing Muslims.
The odd-couple combination of the New York Times and the Bush administration is defending this document. But the fact is that young American soldiers?many of them Christians?are sacrificing their lives and limbs to bring into being an Islamic state in Afghanistan that may not respect the rights of Christians. That story should not be glossed over simply because American feminists are happy that more women have been guaranteed seats in the new Afghan government.