A “detrimental” law passed in the Iraqi parliament that forces children of parents who convert to Islam to automatically become Muslim will probably not be implemented, an Iraqi ambassador says.

Lukman Faily, who served as the Iraqi ambassador in Washington between 2013 and 2016, told an audience at the London School of Economics on Wednesday evening (30 Nov.) that the legislation had been introduced “without due consideration” for its impact on Iraq’s beleaguered minorities and to “score political points, trying to be more royal than the king”.

Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans, Kakai and Bahai MPs walked out of the Iraqi Parliament session in protest when the law was passed on 27 October 2015. The marginalisation of non-Muslims has continued as power transferred from Sunni to Shia hands after the 2003 US-led invasion, and those who have not emigrated have been subjected to attacks and intimidation by jihadist groups such as Islamic State.    

Faily said he had voiced concerns about the law with Muslim clerics and politicians. “Even those in the Government, and those religious men who are engaged in the government, said it’s insensitive, detrimental and out of date. So I don’t think it will be implemented,” he said.

In his lecture, Faily warned that Iraqis need to accept that minorities such as Christians and Kurds are part of Iraq, along with tribes, city-dwellers, those who live in rural areas, and returnees who lived overseas during the punishing sanctions era of the 1990s. Only then could the country’s badly damaged social fabric be repaired, he said.

He presented a report, ‘Social harmony: an Iraqi perspective,’ in which he argued that the country’s ethno-sectarian violence was caused by a lack of cohesion between the three pillars on which Iraqi society was built, namely the state, religion and culture, and that respect and tolerance were needed as well as cultural, religious and political pluralism.