Saturday, July 30, 2005

Iraq's Problem with Pluralism

I don't know the solution. Religous pluralism is a hairy problem. The fascinating thing is to watch the same scenario America has wrestled with for years playing out in Iraq. Those currently in the majority (Shi'ite) would like a religious state, but the minority (Sunni) want a secular state.

In America, most Christians are not longing for theocracy, but I think many envision something like a national embracing of Judeo-Christian mores. Lowest-common-denominator values are an abysmal failure as a social experiment. That view produces a morality so thin, you couldn't even spread it on a cracker. The (legitmate) fear of disenfranchising a large number of Americans, however, keeps us from moving toward a clear and unified moral vision.

Iraq faces the same question. The deadline for the new constitution is swiftly approaching. If the Shi'tes, who hold a majority in parliament, vote for an Islamic state (of the Shi'ite flavor), they will alienate a huge segment of the population. If the Sunnis have their way, however, the religious character of the nation will be watered down to a mere shadow of Islam -- a result hardly palatable to a majority of Iraqis, in my understanding.

I'm not in favor of the creation of another Islamic state, per se, but I am very interested in the tension between religious pluralism and civil liberties. How will Iraq sort this out? How should they sort it out?


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