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The Rights of Religious Minorities in Iraq: The Case of the Forced Conversion of Minors

In: Arab Law Quarterly
Author:
Harith Al-Dabbagh Faculty of Law, University of Montreal C.P. 6128, succ. Centre-V. Montréal, Québec Canada H3C 3J7

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Abstract

Religion raises many legal questions in confessional systems where a minor child is usually assigned the parents’ religion ex officio. In Iraq, as in many Middle Eastern countries, the conversion to Islam of one of the parents results in the conversion of their minor children. For decades, the Iraqi Court of Cassation has granted children the right to choose their religion upon reaching majority. From the early 21st century, the case law of the Court of Cassation has evolved towards denying children this right of option (iḫtiyār). The child is therefore deprived of his/her right to choose and must remain Muslim. In this article, the author criticizes this reversal of jurisprudence and deplores its dire consequences on social peace. After analyzing the teachings of Islamic law and the texts of positive Iraqi law, he concludes that the new trend of the Court of Cassation is ill-founded and flawed.

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