By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In another example of attempts to legitimize murder for apostasy, an Islamist Cleric of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) declared in an interview with the BBC that Kurds who leave Islam to convert to Zoroastrianism are to be murdered; or in his words “Killed and Executed.”
The cleric extended his hand of mercy by allowing those converts three days to regret their decision but thereafter are to be executed.
In an almost brutal irony, Mulla Hassib from Sulaimani said that Islamic religious tenets permit such executions, but ISIS’ practice of killing apostates is partially correct but he criticizes the terrorist organization for spreading the religion by means of “violence”.
Kurdistan is home to many diverse religious and ethnic groups, including Christians, Zoroastrians, Yazidis, Kakayis, and Muslims both Sunni and Shi’ite. For centuries these ethnic groups enjoyed relative harmony in a world so otherwise often bitterly divided. Yet with the decade long strife and war besieging the region extremists have sown discord in such a fashion that lesser degrees of repression and intolerance have gained adherents. Sunni hardliners having ties to ISIS and groups within Iran are influential as is the KIG’s leadership which has ties with the Iranian government.
The intolerant actions by a few Islamist leaders is likely in part due to a rise in Zoroastrianism within the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Zoroastrianism predates Christianity and Islam by centuries and is regarded as a precursor by some to these religions. Its decline began with the Islamic conquest of Persia from 633 to the mid 650s. While today the religious faithful are estimated in the low 100,000s worldwide, a resurgence of the faith is showing marked gains in Iraqi Kurdistan. A movement exists to gain official recognition status by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Culturally Kurds have a strong interweaving with the religion and the Kurdish language is derived from the Avesta, the religion’s sacred book.
Some Kurdish scholars, such as Mariwan Naqshbandi, the spokesperson for Iraqi Kurdistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, credits much of the transformation to be out of individuals’ reaction to strife and conflict within Islam and the extremism plaguing areas of Iraq and Syria.
“The people of Kurdistan no longer know which Islamic movement, which doctrine or which fatwa, they should be believing in.”
He affirms that the interest in Zoroastrianism is a symptom of the disagreements within Islam and religious instability in the Iraqi Kurdish region as well as in the country as a whole. According to an interview with Niquash, Mariwan stated that “For many more liberal or more nationalist Kurds, the mottos used by the Zoroastrians seem moderate and realistic. There are many people here who are very angry with the Islamic State group and it’s inhumanity.”
Kurdistan’s first official Zoroastrian Temple opened last year in Sulaimani. Let us hope it may by one to escape the violence.
By Darren Smith
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Photo Credit: BBC
Image Credit: Kevin McCormick