Iraq’s child conversion law may yet be repealed

The National Card Law that was approved by the Iraqi Parliament on October 27, included a paragraph that would force Christian and non-Muslim children to become Muslims if the male parent converts to Islam or if their non-Muslim mother marries a Muslim. Non-Muslim step-children of a Muslim father would be forced to become Muslims. The law was specified in Article 26, paragraph 2, which says ‘children shall follow the religion of the converted parent to Islam.’

Assyrians, Yazidis, Mandeans, Kakai and Bahai leaders vigorously fought the law and their representatives walked out of the Parliament session in protest after it was passed. They had requested to add the following sentence to paragraph 2: “minors will keep their current religion until the completion of 18 years of age, then they have the right to choose their religion” — but this was rejected.

The passing of this law prompted a strongly-worded article by Nadine Maenza in the National Review, headed ‘Many Americans died to free Iraq — but some Iraqis are not yet free.’ She said “Iraqi religious minorities will continue to be victimized unless we stand with them and demand religious freedom.” (Full article)

The Assyrian International News Agency has since reported that Salim Jibouri, the President of the Council, asked the non-Muslim Parliamentarians who had boycotted the meetings to return to the sessions of the Council and contribute to the rewriting of the law, noting that the Council will take the necessary steps to amend the law and work to ensure that all ethnic groups enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Kadhim al-Shammari, MP from the National Coalition, said on Wednesday the decision of the Council to take the necessary measures to amend the national card law to ensure the rights of minorities is an important step to restore national unity and strengthen the social fabric.

in a statement published by Sky Press, Al-Shammari said “Iraqi society represents a diverse and beautiful mosaic of various nationalities and religions, and this diversity is a strength of the country when building the right foundation for a peaceful coexistence and respect for the rights of others.”

He added the “Parliament’s decision to take the necessary measures to amend Article 26 of the national card law, represents an important and bold step to pave the way towards giving all the components of civil and religious rights without marginalization.”

He praised “…all efforts made within the Parliament of political blocs and the private representatives of minorities and their strong stand to regain the rights for their constituents in addition to the efforts of the Presidency and religious endowments to succeed. We hope it culminates with the amending the article once and for all, including giving full freedom for all groups in the selection of the religion that suits them according to the principle of no compulsion in religion.”