Afghan Constitutional Debacle
Byline: Bruce Fein, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Taliban's wretched theocracy in Afghanistan succumbed to the U.S. military two years ago. Ordinary Afghan citizens wept with joy. But few shed the religious, tribal and ethnic based attitudes and practices that have defeated freedom, democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan for millennia.
The draft Afghan constitution, released last month and fashioned under the guidance of the United States, celebrates religious intolerance and the supremacy of the Sunni sect of Islam. Benighted mullahs command greater constitutional standing than secular democrats.
The post-Taliban constitutional debacle should have taught the Bush administration a cluster of nation-building axioms: that political and social culture must be transformed before inaugurating popular elections and majority rule; that democratic-friendly cultural transformations require decades - not years abbreviated by presidential politics - of U.S. occupation and governance; and that tyranny by the majority is tyranny, not democracy.
But like the French Bourbons, the Bush presidency seems to forget nothing and learn nothing. Its Afghanistan folly has been repeated in Iraq, which each unfolding day there confirms.
The draft constitution denies equal justice under law to non-Sunnis and women. The preamble proclaims on behalf of the people of Afghanistan a belief "in the sacred religion of Islam." In other words, non-Muslims are subservient to the 85 percent Sunni Afghan majority.
Article 2 of the draft enshrines Islam as the official religion. Non-Muslims may practice their creeds only to the extent permitted under laws enacted by the Muslim majority in the National Assembly. The prospects of religious minorities are bleak. The history of Afghanistan is a history of religious intolerance. Shi'ite s, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other sects have been generally unwelcome and subjugated.
Article 3 condemns any law "contrary to the sacred religion of Islam." Accordingly, the Holy Koran, the Sunna and Sharia, as interpreted and applied by mullahs, are the supreme law of the land. A law that endowed women or non-Muslims with equal rights, for instance, would be unconstitutional.
Article 17 obligates the state to indoctrinate students in Islam, and to upgrade the "conditions of mosques, madrassasas and religious centers." Categorically rejected are the separation of church and state and evenhanded treatment of all religious sects embraced in the United States Constitution. Indeed, no popularly elected Afghan official or popular leader, past or present, has ever urged or praised freedom of religion in the manner of George Washington, James Madison or Thomas Jefferson.
Article 35 suppresses political parties which dissent from "the sacred religion of Islam. …