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International Christian Concern
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For Immediate Release: The New Afghan Constitution: Sharia Lite?

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(1/6/04) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) comments on the ramifications of the new Afghanistan constitution.
On Sunday, Jan. 4 the fledgling Afghanistan government (the 502 member Loya Jirga) voted in favor of a new constitution. This document, which was long in coming, was a source of concern for those interested in the cause of religious freedom. The constitution is not the document that Western Human Rights organizations such as ours would hope for; however, it is a step in the right direction. Like the U.S. system, it sets up a strong presidency with a bi-cameral legislative body. Unlike the U.S. system it declares Afghanistan to be an Islamic Republic. The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom called the draft version of the constitution “Taliban-lite” because of several very troubling clauses. Most of these remained in the final document and we fear it could be a document that sets up “Sharia Lite”.

Of particular concern are the following phrases/provisions.

· It establishes the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”

· Islam is defined as its “sacred religion”

· Although delegates did reportedly remove specific references to sharia, or Islamic law, the document nonetheless contains sections that give privilege to Islam. For instance, “followers of other religions are free to perform their religious ceremonies in accordance with the provisions of the law” (this is a loophole Osama could walk through). There is no provision separating mosque from state or explicitly ensuring equal rights among religious groups, as does our First Amendment.

· No law in Afghanistan “can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this constitution” (We would call this “Sharia Lite”).

The constitution runs the risk of re-establishing a judicial or legislative theocracy in the country. Individual human-rights guarantees can be overridden by ordinary legislation and that legislation must adhere to the teachings of Islam. ICC knows firsthand of the thirst for Christianity among the population of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan people should be free to be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion and be able to practice their faith without fear of retribution. This document is not the foundation for those religious freedoms to be built upon.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to
help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US Church regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.