SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- The war against Islamic State militants in Iraq has placed the Kurdistan Region’s three Islamic political parties under the spotlight, with academics and intellectuals questioning their agendas.
The Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS), which controls most of Iraq’s Sunni heartland since the fall of Mosul in June, dominated a seminar in Sulaimani Friday titled “Kurdistan: Political Islam.”
On the sidelines of the event, Kurdistan’s main Islamic groups were criticized by some attendees for “not publicly condemning the acts of the IS.”
“The Islamic parties here have shown that they don’t want to condemn the Islamic State,” Fuad Majeed Misri, a Kurdish writer, said at the seminar, organized by the Writers Union.
“Neither in writing, nor verbally nor in a statement did they condemn the Islamic state,” claimed Misri. “They only tried to find excuses for what the group does.”
Meanwhile, others thought it was unfair to put Kurdish Islamic parties in the same category as the radical IS.
“Kurdish Islamic parties are Islamic-nationalist, but the IS is a neo-fundamentalist group that employs terrorism as its main mechanism of work,” said Adil Baxawan, a veteran writer and scholar on political Islam.
“Kurdish Islamic parties try to adjust and use the democratic process in their politics,” said Baxawan. “Therefore it’s very important to separate them from the likes of the IS.”
The Islamic Union (Yekgirtu), Islamic League (Komal) and the Islamic Movement (IMK) are the Kurdistan Region’s three main Islamic groups and are part of the government and parliament in Erbil.
Members of the three Islamic parties or their supporters were not present in large numbers at the conference.
But Omar Muhammad, a senior member of the Islamic Union described the IS as “a violent and terrorist group.” He said that Islamic history has seen many such groups “which seek out certain texts and interpretations to justify their violent actions.”
Ali Bapir, the leader of Komal which has been the main target of criticism for not standing against the IS, urged in a statement last month for Kurds to unite against IS attacks.
“I urge all parties in Kurdistan to get united and defend this land,” he said.
“I tell the IS, ‘reassess your actions,’” said Bapir. “What you do is extremism, and extremism will not last long.”
Taman Shakir, a writer and women’s rights activist at the seminar, believes that Kurdistan does not need Islamic parties.
“We, as Kurds, have a nationalist issue not a religious one,” she said. “But due to persistent preachings and teachings of Islamic scholars our society is about to lose its genuine identity,” she added. “This society is abiding by a culture that is not ours.”
Latif Salafai, a prominent Salafi figure in Kurdistan, noted that IS does not have any support among legitimate Muslim leaders.
“This is a group of young men, some of them new converts to Islam from Europe who do not have any knowledge of the religion. That is why none of the prominent Muslim leaders stand by the IS.”
Last month, a group of 48 Kurdish intellectuals announced their symbolic conversion to the Yezidi faith as a protest against the massacre of women and children by the IS and an act of solidarity with the persecuted minority.