Shiites pushing for Islamic Iraq

Feb. 5, 2005 at 2:59 PM
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BAGHDAD, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Results of Iraq's election are expected to bring to power Shiite clerics who make no secret of their desire to turn the nation into an Islamic republic.

Early returns give every indication that the United Iraqi Alliance, a group loyal to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, will push for "shariah" or Islamic law as its successful candidates join others to write a new constitution this year, the New York Times said Saturday.

"Sistani and the other grand ayatollahs will press for as much Shariah ... as possible in Iraqi law," said Juan Cole, a history professor and specialist in Shiite Islam at the University of Michigan. "They can afford to be patient if they can't push through everything now."

On the more radical end of the spectrum, Moqtada Sadr, the young firebrand cleric, is already distributing a draft constitution that bans non-Muslims from the Iraqi Army.

But while some of his ideas will be rejected by other Muslims as extreme, nearly all religious Shiite candidates who will join the 275-member National Assembly oppose treating women as equals in marriage, divorce and family inheritance and endorse men having several wives, the newspaper said.

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