Theocracy in Iraq: a dilemma [Jamal’s comment and Perle’s response]

Dear Dr. Daniel Pipes:

I read a news item in Washington Post today (April 21, 2003). On page A12, the story titles “Senators Wary of Theocracy in Iraq” drew my attention. Near the bottom, there was a quotation from the Pentagon Advisory Board member Richard N. Perle. Regarding Iraqis’ political future he said, “.. But if they choose to create an Islamic theocracy, the United States will have to live with that choice”.

I felt a bit frustrated as I read Mr. Perle’s comment. I have high respect for his scholarly pursuit and I appreciate his intellectual support behind removing the Iraqi despot. Nevertheless, his unambiguous comment welcoming theocracy in Iraq troubled me. I am sure Mr. Richard Perle already identified Islamism as the biggest enemy of secular West and modernity. I am also inclined to believe that like some of us, i.e., the freethinkers of Bangladesh origin, Mr. Perle would hate to see proliferation of Islamists in any part of the world.

While one billion Muslims of the world are yet to see any significant reform of fundamentals of Islam, the fundamentalists or Islamists have the last hurrah in many Muslim majority societies. The countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have crossed the threshold of converting those countries in future Sharia based societies. Unlike Communism of yesteryear, a Sharia based society is harder to uproot because of relevance of religion.

Following Mr. Perle’s argument may I ask him, if we could live with Islamic theocracy in Iraq, then what was wrong living with Saddam? Recent history proved there were not too many Saddam lovers who wanted to be martyrs. Also, the high propensity of self-sacrifice of Islamists is clearly shown in the Afghanistan theater. Martyrs who choose to go to paradise were not in abundance among Saddams’ disciples. Moreover, it can safely be said, an Islamic terrorist has more potential to do harm than a secular Arab nationalist.

In addition to that, Mr. Richard Perle skipped an important aspect of the theocracy issue. As an expert of the region he must have been well versed with the fundamental antagonism between Sunni theocracy and Shiite theocracy. Both cannot cohabit together – that is plain and simple. A theocracy amalgamating both the branches of Islam is hardly possible. If someone attempts to indulge in such venture will invite serious political upheaval. That would invite a big blood bath, which may dwarf the days of Imam Hussein’s battle in Karbala in 680 AD. Are we waiting for another Karbala war or what?

This essay of fatemolla published in today’s News from Bangladesh (April 21, 2003) could be an eye opener for all of us. I wish Mr. Richard Perle got a chance to review the following essay of fatemolla, a notable critic of Islamic jurisprudence and a Hadith researcher. Here is the link to fatemolla essay for your perusal:

Yours sincerely,

Jamal Hasan

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Richard N. Perle’s response:

You are right, of course. It seems to me that the crucial issue is getting the right constitution for Iraq, one that assures individual liberty including freedom of religion, etc. I should have distinguished between a theocracy and religious activity within a democracy.

Thanks for your comment. I will be more careful in the future.
Regards, Richard Perle
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This text was published in the Mukto-mona eforum in April 2003

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