For months, critics have observed that the rebels in Libya contains worrisome elements of religious extremists and that the rebel forces have been accused of war crimes (as have the government forces). The concern is that, like our work in Afghanistan (ultimately helping Al Qaeda and the Taliban), we have little understanding of who we are bringing to power in Libya in our intervention into that civil war. That concern is magnified this week by the release of the draft constitution, which (unless changed) would make Sharia law the governing law of Libya.
Of course, much appears in flux in Tripoli and this is just a draft. Yet, we have reason to be concerned. We have a long line of cases exploring the abuses and atrocities committed in various governments in the name of Sharia law.
Here is Part 1, Article 1: “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”
If this clause remains in any final version, Libya will join countries like Iran in imposing religious law on a population. Not only is it a rejection of the separation of church and state, it would make a mockery of other guarantees of due process.
It is interesting that this issue was raised by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which seems supportive of faith-based programs and legislation in the United States. Heritage (before which I have spoken in past years) is not viewed by civil libertarians as particularly strong on separation issues. Some of us disagree with faith-based politics and legislation regardless of whether it is Judeo-Christian or Muslim.
There is of course great disagreement over the proper enforcement or even meaning of Sharia precepts. However, the treatment of women, religious freedom, free speech, and the methods of punishment have been a constant source of abuses in Sharia-based systems.
It is not clear how much support this draft has within the transitional government, but the story highlights how little we know of the intentions of leaders or factions in this new government.