Islamisation of underage children – what the new laws mean

 On October 27 the Parliament in Iraq rejected a proposal made by Christian representatives (but also supported by parliamentarians belonging to different alliances) to amend the law according to which a child is automatically registered as a Muslim, even if only one parent converts to Islam. The proposal asked to add a sentence in the section of law regarding minors, in order to establish that children remain in the original religion of belonging until they reach eighteen years of age, and then freely choose the religion they want.

The law is from the very start against Freedom of Religion, as it makes it mandatory to register what religion an individual professes and then further determines the religion of the children that person might ever have. “Modify the article 26. We repeat modify the article and not to cancel”, this was the slogan echoed in the reunion of all the Christians called by His Beatitude Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans and President of the Council of Christian Church-Leaders in Iraq.

The Patriarch Sako expressed the necessity for the change of this article as it goes against  basic human rights, against the teachings of Quran and against the Iraqi Constitution. Moreover he reminded in his speech that the Christians were one of the original components of Iraq and also underlined the contribution of Christians in managing the current refugee crisis. He concluded by reiterating his commitment to struggle for justice until it is modified, or if this is not done, to take this question to the international forums.

A Muslim MP and delegates from Human Rights Commission and NGOs spoke at a meeting held in the courtyard of the parish of St. George Chaldean Catholic Church. Members from all the Christian Churches, priests and religious, and representatives from other minorities in Iraq like Yazidis, Mandaeans and Shabaks, were also present. Many Muslims also attended the meeting.

Everyone present insisted that the article discriminates against  minorities in Iraq and creates division in a country already much divided. The speakers also quoted verses from Quran which says, “There is no coercion in the religion”.

Precise information about the status of the National Card Law NCL

Responses to QUESTIONS asked by ACN:

 1.What is its name of the law, in what official legislation is inscribed (constitution? civil law?)

The name of the law is the National Card Law NCL inscribed in the constitution of Iraq. It has no reference No as it is not yet published in the Official Gazette of Iraq (Al – Waqai Al Iraqiya). Issued by the The National Assembly of Iraq, it is only a normal legislation. There is no explicit text in the valid constitution of Iraq on this issue, but the law draws on the text of Article 2/ One of the constitution. 

2.What is the text of the article to be amended? 

The text of the article to be amended is: Underage children shall follow the religion of the parent converted to Islam”.

  1. What is the text of the (now rejected) amendment? 

The text of the (now rejected) amendment is: “The change in the religion of a parent does not entail the change of their underage children”.

  1. When (dates are important) was it presented to vote?

It was presented to vote by the National Assembly of Iraq during its normal session No. 32 of the 3rd Legislative Term with the attendance of 230 representatives on Tuesday 27 October 2015.

  1. When is it in force? Because it was an amendment does this mean its effect is immediate?

It is not yet enforced because it is not an amendment. Rather, it is a new law that will be submitted  to the office of the President of Iraq  who is supposed to either ratify or reject it or demand that an amendment by made to it within 15 days as of  the date of its receipt by the president. However, if the president fails to make any response during the above period, then the law shall be deemed ratified, and consequently shall be published in the Official Gazette of Iraq and shall be effective within a month of its publication.

  1. Is it impossible to appeal to postpone application?

Yes, it is possible to appeal to postpone, but the problem is that the final ruling of the Federal Court is decisive, in other words, if the appeal is ever rejected then the law shall be effective and there will be no other way to reject it. Therefore, it is better to appeal to the president as soon as possible and ask him not to ratify it.

  1. Will it be a Federal law? Also applicable in Kurdistan?

Yes, it will be a Federal law, but it is possible for the parliament of Kurdistan Region to make amendments if and when the required approvals are obtained. However, this is a difficult issue because any text that is related to Islamic shariaa is beyond any amendment in a manner that serves the interests of the religious minorities.