Following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal Al-Din, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on December 14, 2007.
Jamal Al-Din: Our problem today – not only in Iraq, but in all Arab and Islamic countries – is the duality of the Shari'a and the law. This duality is lethal. Our countries do not fully abide by the Shari'a of Allah, nor do they follow a man-made law, like in France and other countries – including Turkey. There is nothing wrong with a country that bases itself exclusively on Shari'a law, with no regard for the civil law. We believe the Koran to be the book sent by Allah – a complete book, with no additions and no omissions. Indeed, we believe that the Koran and Islam are the solution. Why, then, do we mix elements of the French and other laws in our Shari'a law? Let the brothers who demand the establishment of a religious state adhere exclusively to Shari'a law. Let them, for example, collect the Jizya poll tax from their Christian citizens. Let them annihilate the Yazidis because they do not belong to the People of the Book. Let them raise doubts about the status of the Sabaeans in Iraq, because it is unclear whether they belong to the People of the Book or not.
A religious state based on Shari'a law can't coexist with the concept of citizenship. The concept of "homeland" in the Shari'a differs from the concept of "homeland" in modern political discourse. In the Shari'a, your homeland is your city, and if the city is large, it means the home...
Interviewer: "Homeland" means a person's place of birth.
Jamal Al-Din: Right. Therefore, the concept of "homeland" is a modern concept, which is based on modern political thought, and it cannot coexist with the religious way of thinking. Those who believe...
Interviewer: Do you think religion runs counter to the concept of citizenship?
Jamal Al-Din: These are two distinct concepts. We cannot strip off the modern concept of "homeland"... We can talk about the "citizens of Egypt," for example. This is the modern concept of "homeland" in political discourse, and it has nothing to do with the Shari'a.
Religion is one thing, and its implementation is another thing. Who will implement religion – a flawed human being, whose complexes, fears, and suspicions towards the others will be evident? All these complexes stem from the flawed nature of man. The perfect human being is not afraid. He loves everything – trees, stones, and human beings. Jesus, son of Mary, loved even a dancer. He said to her: "You are a human being, worthy of respect." The Prophet Muhammad and the righteous men acted the same way. Bad implementation of the religion makes people averse to religion as a whole. We have examples of this. There are many religious governments in the region, and people who were averse to those who implement the religion – the clerics or people who pretend to be Muslims – have developed an aversion to the religion itself. A week ago, I was at a conference in America. A woman sat next to me, wearing a nun's habit, with a large cross around her neck. She told me in Farsi that she worked in some church, providing services to the new refugees coming to the church. She began to explain what she was doing at the church. All of a sudden, I asked her: "When did you become a Christian?" She laughed, and I said: "I'm sure you were a Shiite Muslim and you became a Christian." She said: "Not recently – 12 years ago, both me and my husband." She was an Iranian Shiite Muslim, and she became a Christian nun. They do not allow women to be priests, but she provides services at the church. I did not rebuke her or tell her that Islam is the perfect religion...
Interviewer: Why do you think she converted...
Jamal Al-Din: I'm getting there. I did not rebuke her, but I cursed those who made people like her immigrate, and abandon their religion. The aversion has reached such a degree that people flee not only from the clerics, but from religion itself.
One of the benefits of the secular regime, which is based on the principle of respect for human rights... It makes no difference whether a person is a religious authority or a depraved singer – both are human beings. The secular regime protects the freedom of all – the dancer in a disco...
Interviewer: As long as his liberties do not have a negative effect...
Jamal Al-Din: As long as it is not at the expense of the other. A religious authority cannot be at the expense of a bar, and vice versa. This is how a neutral regime – the secular regime – is formed. The religious regime does come at the expense of the bars, and vice versa.
Interviewer: Do you, a religious cleric, demand that the bars be allowed to exist?
Jamal Al-Din: Definitely. I delivered a speech in 2003, and our brothers, the great "believers," made tapes out of it, because it was during the elections campaign. They handed out the tapes to people, and said I was openly calling for freedom for bars. I reiterate that I call for bars to be allowed [to operate] freely.
Interviewer: How come? Doesn't Islam forbid alcohol consumption? Don't you, as a cleric, assume that those things are prohibited?
Jamal Al-Din: These things are forbidden to me. Personally, I make sure I don't commit such a sin – and I consider it to be a sin, which undoubtedly leads one to Hell – but this is a personal conviction, which I do not impose on you or anyone else. The others are free to do as they please.
Interviewer: When alcohol consumption was first prohibited, didn't they pour out the alcohol in the alleys of Al-Madina?
Jamal Al-Din: That's true. If the Prophet Muhammad were here...
Interviewer: Was this ruling restricted to the Prophet Muhammad? Do you believe that the religious rulings implemented by the Prophet pertained to him alone?
Jamal Al-Din: The way I, as a Shiite, understand it, the social and administrative implementation of Islam must be carried out by the infallible. When done by others, it has advantages as well as problems, and the negative consequences outweigh the advantages. This is what we have been suffering from for 14 centuries. What was the flaw in Haroun Al-Rashid? Did he stop building the countries of Islam? On the contrary. In the days of Haroun Al-Rashid, there were 10,000 public baths in Baghdad. In the days of Haroun Al-Rashid, the water reached the houses in Baghdad, there was a sewage system, and street lighting.
Interviewer: So what's the problem?
Jamal Al-Din: The problem is that people were insignificant. There was no freedom or human dignity. Whoever opposed him... Haroun AL-Rashid understood Islam as the Islam of Haroun Al-Rashid, and whoever interpreted Islam differently was a sinful and godless infidel, who had to be killed, just like Musa ibn Ja'far Al-Kazem in prison.
I don't have a problem with religion or with ideology. My problem is not with the Marxist ideology, but with the politicization of the Marxist ideology, with the politicization of religion, with the use of ideas as a means to tame and subdue people, and with the use of all the media, the security and administrative powers in order to enslave people to a certain idea.
I am devout in all my personal affairs, but I do not wish to impose my religious devoutness on others, using my influence as a politician, or as a head of state, or anything. People are free to do as they wish, and I respect any free human being, and despise those who are not free. I despise a woman who wears the veil in order to get a job, or because of social pressure, or the pressure of the state...
Interviewer: Or vice versa.
Jamal Al-Din: Exactly. I respect a woman who wears the veil even if she is in New York, and a woman who does not wear the veil even in Najaf – as long as it is done out of conviction and free choice. No religious commitment has any value if it is the result of duress.
Interviewer: Do you believe that when the Prophet Muhammad forced certain things on people, this was a violation of the liberties you just called for?
Jamal Al-Din: There is a difference between submission to the perfect human being, and coercion by someone just like me, whom I see committing sins and errors, and who has a different understanding of religion. Maybe my interpretation is better than his. He is a human being just like me.
The way I see it, the Islamists in general – Shiites and Sunnis – worship the religion, and not the lord. There is a difference between viewing religion as a means to worship Allah, and between worshipping the means itself – the religion. This produces fanaticism. Why do people become fanatics? The religion can be compared to a car, which takes you to Mecca. Your goal is Mecca, not the car. If you start circling the car, worshipping and kissing it, you will never get to the Ka'ba – and by the way, the Ka'ba is in itself a symbol, a means. The goal is the Lord, not the Ka'ba. If your goal, when making a pilgrimage, is merely the Ka'ba, then the Ka'ba is no different than a pagan idol. Same thing.
Take Iran, for example. Iran is a country with borders. It would have to give citizenship to one and a half billion Muslims. In Islam, there should be no borders. The Islamic state, or Dar Al-Islam, is the country of all Muslims. In such a case, citizenship must be abolished.
The only thing in which [the Shiites] are different is their objection to the Abu Bakr government. This is the only thing in which all Shiites are different from all Sunnis. Why did the Shiites object to the Abu Bakr government? If you forget about all the historical anecdotes, there is only one reason, and that is that Abu Bakr, who is not infallible, took upon himself all the authorities of the infallible Prophet Muhammad. This is the central issue in Shiite ideology. After 14 centuries, one of the Shiite jurisprudents, who everybody concurs is not infallible – and I am referring to Al-Khomeini – took upon himself all the authorities of the infallible. If what Al-Khomeini did was proper, then Abu Bakr...
Interviewer: The Shiites should oppose Al-Khomeini like they opposed...
Jamal Al-Din: No, it means Abu Bakr acted properly too, and so what is all the disagreement about?
Interviewer: We should be glad that we have reached a solution...
Jamal Al-Din: If my Shiite brothers insist that Abu Bakr equated himself to the infallible, they should declare that Al-Khomeini has nothing to do with their Shiite ideology.
Interviewer: They should oppose Al-Khomeini just like they opposed Abu Bakr's caliphate...
Jamal Al-Din: The rule of the jurisprudent cannot coexist with the rule of Ali bin Abu Taleb.
President Bush and America should be thanked for saving us from that idol that wanted to be worshipped like Allah. If you were to go to Iraq in the days of Saddam Hussein – it was Saddam who [decided] everything from A to Z. Saddam gave life and took life, and decided if people would be rich or poor.
Interviewer: Don't the new politicians have many, if not all, of Saddam's qualities?
Jamal Al-Din: Undoubtedly. We've gotten rid of Saddam, but not of all the mini-Saddams. Even before the war, I said that I was worried that the democracy that we have longed for would turn into a Latin-America-style democracy, a banana republic, relying on an economic mafia and a political mafia.
Interviewer: You have survived four assassination attempts near the Badr forces. Who do you accuse of doing this? Who has an interest in assassinating Iyad Jamal Al-Din?
Jamal Al-Din: Maybe some Shiites who do not want there to be people with other opinions around. Al-Qaeda does not miss...
Interviewer: Are you prepared to state who it was?
Jamal Al-Din: No, I don't have any definite information on this, but Al-Qaeda does not miss the target, so it was definitely not Al-Qaeda.