Will Iraq ban Unveiled Women from Holy Cities?

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Ibtisam al-Hilali, a member of parliament for the Karbala governorate and member of the State of Law Coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, stated Feb. 12 that the governorate’s provincial council intends to pass a bill banning unveiled women from entering the holy city of Karbala.

While banners on the streets of Iraq’s religious cities such as Karbala, Najaf and Khadimiya calling on women to wear the headscarf are a normal sight, this is the first time official figures and parliamentarians try to introduce a bill in this regard.

Karbala is home to the shrines of the third Shiite Imam Hussein bin Ali and his half brother Abbas. The citizens of Karbala are mostly Shiites, and each year the city hosts millions of pilgrims who visit the shrines of the two imams.

A parliamentary source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor, “Many blocs affiliated with Islamic parties are now trying to collect signatures to pass a bill that would ban unveiled women from religious areas. However, this was immediately rejected by parliamentarians, but the blocs are still trying to pursue their efforts to this effect.”

These endeavors might not be welcomed by the Iraqi community, which is governed according to the Iraqi Constitution instead of Sharia. Yet, it appears that some Islamic groups and parties are trying to impose Sharia on the different aspects of civil life. This might suggest the possibility of an imminent conflict between Islamic extremists and civilians seeking to live in a nonreligious state.

Sarwa Abdel Wahed, a parliamentarian for the Movement for Change, told Alqurtas News that some parties are seeking to impose political agendas and settle scores by trying to pass a law banning unveiled women from entering religious cities.

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