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Basra Under Sharia Law

Since the fall of Baghdad, there have been a few isolated efforts to terrorize Iraqi citizens into conformation with Islamic Sharia religious law. Delphine Minoui, reporting for my local paper the Singapore Straits Times, today reports that organized Islamist militias have begun enforcing Sharia law in Basra.

Rebel cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr's followers... have now launched a reign of terror on Basra's streets.

Sheikh Assad Al-Basri, the local representative of Sadr, says 12,000 militiamen have been trained for combat, have spread everywhere in the city and "are ready to mobilize in case of a crisis". Residents say they are already hunting down unveiled women, attacking liquor stores and clamping down on the local press.

As bad as that sounds, the Iraqi government will eventually sanction Sharia law. In January, the Iraqi people freely and overwhelmingly voted for Islamist political parties pledging to do so. Until recently, efforts were sporadic. But, emboldened I'm sure by the mandate of the people, at least one organized militia has taken it upon itself to enforce Islamic morals.

Even so, I'd have dismissed this particular move since it involves Al-Sadr, who's been demonized in the Western press despite having strong popular support second only to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. But as the Straits Times reporter points out, the local authorities are doing nothing to stop it,

Officials concede the militiamen are creating problems but are hesitant to crack down.

"We are going through a sensitive time and we must be cautious and careful," says Mr. Mohammad Saadoun Al-Ebaadi, the chief of the new provincial council.

Every Islamic nation has its religious police, from moderate Malaysia to the repressive Taliban regime we overthrew in Afghanistan. The Islamic nation of Iraq will have its paramilitary morality enforcers as well.

Until the Iraq election, I was against President Bush turning over the government and pulling out the troops until we could be sure Iraqis would elect a liberal, pro-free market government. For a variety of reasons involving politics and legitimacy, President Bush gambled on the outcome of early direct elections. And lost.

Our troops will soon be in the position of inadvertently suppressing the Sunni minority and indirectly enforcing repressive Islamic religious law that, among other things, treats women as property. I now believe we should leave sooner, rather than later. The Bush gambit failed, and free Iraqis made their choice.

Posted by American Pundit at April 19, 2005 11:25 AM