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3.30.2004

The Beginnings of Democracy?

I finally took a moment today to read through Afghanistan's new constitution. It's a pretty standard republican constitution. The usual three branches of government, a President and Vice-President, a bicameral legislation, and a Supreme Court. Of course, it's got the expected parts about the role of Islam in the state, which is probably handled as well as it could be. A few of the articles stood out on my first reading.

Article 3 reads: "In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this Constitution." I wonder if, by placing the Constitution parallel to the teachings of Islam, this was intended to set a limit to the interpretations of Islam that may be legislated.

According to Article 84, the upper legislative house (the "Meshrano Jirga") is to be appointed by the provincial and district councils, one per province or district, and one-third of its members by the president. Apparently this could be a body of flexible size (as, actually, could the lower house ("Wolesi Jirga") which is to have from 220 to 250 members.

Article 130 and 131, which pertain to the Supreme Court provides, problematically, for two systems of jurisprudence: a default to hanafi jurisprudence, with an exception for "personal matters involving members of the Shia sect," whose cases will be subject to, you guessed it, Shia jurisprudence.

Interesting fact: each page of the English translation refers the reader to the Pashto version as authoritative. Curiously like the warning at the front of my copy of Q'uran that only the Arabic version is inspired.

Last comment but one on Tolkien:

There are things in the recent LOTR movies that are (in the sexual sense) totally gay. Best example of this: when the glam-rock-Ziggy-Stardust-period-Bowie elf of Lorien says, "The dwarf breathes so loudly we could shoot him in the dark."

Last comment on Tolkien:

The motifs you highlight are archetypes so common that you could hardly write anything on the mythic scale that Tolkien aspired to without including them. There are certainly things in Rings that facilitate a Christian symbolic interpretation some of the dating, as you point out), but a) they are most often used subversively (e.g. Lorien, the "immaculate land" is fading and dying), and b) most of them depend for their existence on the imagination of the reader, I think, and not on that old bugbear authorial intention.

Posted by Doug Brown
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