In a closed door meeting late last year, the Iraqi Governing Council narrowly passed a resolution to use Sharia'ah, or Islamic law, in place of the family laws instituted under Saddam Hussein. The old laws were among the most liberal in the Middle East, and now Iraq's women, along with other groups are loudly protesting the introduction of Shari'ah.

The Washington Post is reporting in a story being picked up around the country that "outraged Iraqi women—from judges to cabinet ministers—denounced the decision in street protests and at conferences, saying it would set back their legal status by centuries and could unleash emotional clashes among various Islamic strains that have differing rules for marriage, divorce and other family issues."

The decision, which must be approved by Chief U.S. Administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer, is not likely to become law while the U.S. is rebuilding the country. However, once power is returned to Iraq in June, the conservative Shiites who passed the resolution, may simply try again.

Yesterday, CTreported the Afghanistan constitution, which originally had references to Shari'ah, may be seen as a model for Iraq. Experts said the final version of the Afghan constitution had deleted references to Shari'ah due in large part to U.S. pressure.

Also, Hume Horan, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a senior Coalition Provisional Authority adviser on religious affairs, in an interview with PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly said he does not believe an Iranian-style Islamic state is in the works for Iraq.

This is not the image or model which appeals to average Shia. There are quite a few Shia I have met who are moderate and observing, who are somewhat secular, who say, "I want some of these clerics to butt out of my life, yet I respect them." This is why I respect Ayatollah Sistani [Iraq's highest-ranking Shia cleric] so much. He is called to take a position but does so in a way that is moderate, and by and large we don't want clerics to be overly prescriptive in our daily lives. That probably does represent the subdued majority of educated Shiites.

Iraq's secular state under Saddam has given freedoms to women that, it seems, they will not easily relinquish. The Post says, "Women had been allowed to assume a far more modern role than in many other Muslim countries and had been shielded from some of the more egregiously unfair interpretations of Islam advocated by conservative, male-run Muslim groups." One Iraqi council member said, "We don't want to be isolated from modern developments … What hurts most is that the law of the tyrant Saddam was more modern than this new law."

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The policy was written vaguely, which is troubling to Iraqis. As in Afghanistan, the unclear law could allow for a range of interpretation across the country, depending on the views of the Islamic cleric. The law could exacerbate tensions among the many minority communities in Iraq. Horan, in his Religion and Ethics interview outlines the many factions fighting for power in the new Iraqi government. Hopefully, lessons learned in Afghanistan and currently in Iraq will provide the basis for a constitution that is fair to Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Kurds and others.

More articles:

More on Islam and Shari'ah:

  • Thousands of Iraqis Journey to Mecca | Record numbers of Iraqis have applied for a permit this year from Saudi Arabia to make the journey to Mecca, and thousands of the winners crowded onto fleets of buses Thursday that rumbled out of a Baghdad sports stadium to a soundtrack of ecstatic ululations and religious songs.
  • Testing the limits of tolerance | It happens to almost every immigrant. The new culture collides with the old. Choices have to be made, traditions relinquished, a composite identity forged. Usually, the struggle is personal or familial. But sometimes it breaks out into the open, dividing an ethnic or religious community and posing profound questions for Canadian society. Such is the case with the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. (Carol Goar, Toronto Star)
  • Muslim author takes on Islam, ignites firestorm | A best-seller in Canada, Manji's controversial tome "The Trouble With Islam" was published in the United States this week. The book plays on increasing fears that the social, political and religious values of the West are threatened by the growth of Islam worldwide. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Detroit bishop heads to Iraq for information | Gumbleton wants to know how the war has affected the civilians (Detroit Free Press)

Pakistan bombing of Bible society:

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  • Militants blamed for Pakistan blast | A car bomb exploded outside a Christian Bible society facility in southern Pakistan yesterday, leaving 15 people injured and damaging the wall of a nearby church, officials said. The attack in the port city of Karachi occurred after police received an anonymous phone call warning the Pakistan Bible Society would be targeted, police said. (Associated Press)
  • Car bomb targets church in Karachi | A powerful car bomb exploded near a church in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, injuring at least 11 people, including two police officers. (UPI)
  • Police link Pakistan church bomb, consulate blast | A car bomb that wounded 11 people outside the Anglican cathedral in Pakistan's biggest city was similar to one used by Muslim militants to kill 12 people outside the U.S. consulate in 2002, police said on Friday. (Reuters)
  • Car bomb injures 13 at Karachi church | A car bomb blew up outside a church in Karachi yesterday, wounding 13 people including three soldiers and several Christians. (Telegraph, UK)
  • Terrorists Target Bible Society | Terrorists yesterday hijacked a government car, parked it outside the Bible Society here with a bomb and detonated it. Twelve people, half of them police and paramilitary officers, were injured (Arab News, Saudi Arabia)
  • Another Church attacked: Govt. expresses concern | The international community is expressing growing concern over continuing attacks on Christian places of worship, Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said yesterday. (Sri Lanka Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)
  • Mob attacks church | The Roman Catholic Church of St. Michael's in Katuwana, Homagama came under a mob attack early yesterday for the second time in three weeks. Police blamed religious extremists for the attack, one of several reported throughout the country in the recent past (Daily News, Sri Lanka)

Politics and Law:

  • Clergy lay groundwork for resumption of talks | THE troika of local church leaders met Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu PF's secretary for information Nathan Shamuyarira on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a resumption of talks, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal. (Zimbabwe Independent)
  • Tracing the path of Dean's theological loop-d-loop | No one who's glad that George Bush is president can insist with a straight face that articulateness is a requirement for a successful president. But I'll take Bush's verbal fumbles over the disco-ball of incoherence that is Howard Dean's brain. (Jonah Goldberg, The City Paper, Nashville)
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Bush courts Blacks:

  • Protesters Chant and Boo as Bush Honors Dr. King | President Bush made a swing through the South on Thursday with an appeal to black voters, but encountered emotional protests when he stopped here to lay a wreath at the grave of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (The New York Times)
  • Bush preaches power of faith | Historic N.O church provides presidential pulpit (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)
  • Hundreds Protest As Bush Visits MLK Tomb | Looking for election-year support from black voters in the South, President Bush was greeted at Martin Luther King's grave here Thursday by noisy demonstrators who chanted ``Go home, Bush!'' after receiving a warmer reception at a run-down church in New Orleans. (The New York Times)
  • Bush Courts Black Voters | In Southern Trip, He Emphasizes Faith-Based Plan (Washington Post)

Church and state:

Religious displays:

  • Residents' association seeks removal of religious flag | A residents' association in Florida has ordered a retired teacher of Caribbean-Indian origin to stop flying a "Hindu religious flag" in front of her house, evoking protest from her community. (The Hindu, India)
  • Vandals ransack Catholic church | Investigators were trying to determine whether vandals who tore up prayer books, knocked over icons and lit fires at St. Catherine Roman Catholic Church were trying to desecrate the sanctuary or cover up a robbery (Associated Press)

Life ethics:

  • Bill would require classes on fetuses | A Republican lawmaker from South Bend wants to require high school health teachers to show students photographs of fetuses and teach them the health consequences of an abortion (Associated Press)
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Homosexuality and gay marriage:

  • VU conference to offer views on homosexuality | "Psychology, Religion and Homosexuality: Critical Responses to Reparative Therapy," is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt, the Human Rights Campaign and Vanderbilt's Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality (The Tennessean, Nashville)
  • Jewish group OK's same-sex marriage | The Jewish Community Relations Council, the major public policy voice of the Jewish community in Greater Boston, has voted overwhelmingly to endorse same-sex marriage. (The Boston Globe)

Sexual abuse:

  • Boy: Preacher asked me for sex | A Philadelphia preacher known for controversy at area universities was in court Tuesday on charges that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old boy into his van and solicited oral sex (The Daily Local, West Chester, Pa.)
  • Diocese's antiabuse program rejected | The Arlington Catholic diocese's efforts to prevent sexual abuse of children in Catholic schools and religious programs backfired Monday night when angry parents filled a Manassas church to demand that a proposed "Good Touch, Bad Touch" program be canceled (The Washington Times)
  • £333,000 award in church abuse case | The Roman Catholic church will face new humiliation today when it agrees what are thought to be the highest damages ever awarded against it in a case of child abuse by a priest in England (The Guardian, London)

Christian nudists:


  • Is God in the detail? | The strangeness begins with his name, which was properly Domenikos Theotokopoulos; he always signed his works thus, often in Greek characters, but in Italy he was called "Il Greco," and in Spain "Domenico Greco" or "El Griego". The solecism "El Greco" is what stuck. Born in Crete, trained in Italy, he found recognition and employment only in Toledo, the capital of the Spanish Counter-Reformation. In Toledo, in his mid-thirties, he found himself, and was indulged. (John Updike, The Scottsman)
  • There's no solving mystery of Christ | Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus—to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand and convert to our own purposes. So far it hasn't worked. (Andrew Greeley, Chicago Sun Times)
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The Passion gears up:

  • 'Passion' Film Is Scheduled for Big Opening | The distributors of Mel Gibson's controversial new movie, "The Passion of the Christ," plan to release the film on 2,000 screens across the nation next month, a decision prompted by an unexpected flood of ticket requests. (The New York Times)
  • 'Passion of the Christ' to play in Great Falls | The Rev. Cory Engel, leader of a group of Great Falls pastors seeking to bring Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus' last hours to town, found the answer he wanted Thursday. (Great Falls Tribune, Montana)
  • For donor, Gibson film evolves into 'Passion' | Movie supporter buys thousands of tickets for Plano megaplex opening (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Mel rolls out Passion | Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, a drama about the last hours of Jesus, is set to debut on 2 000 screens in the United States - an unusually large release for an independent religious film made in dead languages. (News24, South Africa)
  • Mel's passion for the Christ | Not afraid of the controversy that has bugged Mel Gibson-directed The Passion Of The Christ, and that it had dialogue in Latin and Aramaic, a small distributor is taking the big risk of releasing it in over 2,000 screens on February 25. (Rediff, India)

Evangelism and ministry:

  • Graham plans Missouri revival | At 85, evangelist Billy Graham still plans another revival meeting—this time at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium June 17-20. Graham was not present for the announcement because he was recovering from partial hip replacement in Jacksonville. His office said doctors expect complete recovery and the injury would not hinder preaching plans. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Elizabeth pastor does double duty as EMT | Clergyman says emergency work an extension of his ministry (The Journal-Standard, Illinois)
  • City's Downtown Churches Trade Congregations in Pulpit Exchange | Pastors from 11 of Winchester's downtown churches will preach to one another's congregations Sunday for the ninth annual Pulpit Exchange. (Winchester Star, Virginia)
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  • The word on the street thanks to heartbeat team | A Christian group in the Bible Belt town of Ballymena has bravely ventured into new territory by mixing with drunks spilling out of pubs late at night in a bid to spread their message (The Belfast Telegraph)
  • The war of the Jesus fish is an ever escalating one | The battle, nay, the veritable Fish Wars, have escalated, have detonated, have conflagrated like a shiny metallic supernova (Rachel Sauer, Palm Beach Post)
  • Religion as rehabilitation | In the belief that religion holds the key to turning criminals into law-abiding citizens, the Florida Department of Corrections has established faith-based dormitories at nine institutions throughout the state since 1999 (Palm Beach Post)


  • Religious education is not indoctrination | Students are free to propose other ideas, contrary views and ethical dilemmas (Ann Rennie, The Age, Melbourne, Australia)
  • Push on for Bibles in schools | A Surf City man is trying to get a statewide initiative on the ballot that would give the King James Bible to all students (Independent, Huntington Beach, Calif.)
  • Is Good Book Also a Great Book? | Any 10th-grader who has slogged through a Thomas Hardy novel might well rejoice at Matt McLaughlin's idea: using the Bible as literature. Still, the Huntington Beach attorney no doubt shivered the timbers of lots of people who assume his real intent is to implant Christianity into the state's public school curriculum. (Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times)
  • The deity and the data | How science is putting God under its lens (Chicago Tribune)

The Bible:

  • The king of Bibles | The King James is a monumental achievement with a mysterious genesis (Robert Fulford, National Post, Canada)

Da Vinci Code:

More on Kelley:


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  • 'Church Night' drags Suns into gay-marriage debate | The Phoenix Suns are embroiled in a battle between a conservative religious group and some Valley churches over anti-gay-marriage literature that accompanied invitations to "Church Night" at a March basketball game (The Arizona Republic)
  • Muslim Football League Opens to Jews, Christians | Organizers of a Muslim football league that drew protests over team names such as "Mujahideen" and "Soldiers of Allah" are planning a second tournament open to all religious groups. (Fox News)


  • Religious e-mail violates town rule | Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said he took no offense, but the religious e-mail he got from a Gilbert Fire Department employee violated that town's e-mail policy (The Arizona Republic)
  • Sympathy for the spammer | John Wilson, editor of the bimonthly review Books & Culture, uncovers the hidden meaning behind some nonsense e-mails (The Boston Globe)

Australian Archbishop resignation:

  • Carnley a hard man to replace | The premature resignation of Peter Carnley as primate of the Anglican Church of Australia was not only unexpected but will engender a serious struggle within the church to elect a new leader, reflecting the marked advance of more conservative and right-wing forces among Anglicans (Editorial, The Australian)

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Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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