Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (cabinet.gov.krd) – In a speech at a conference held in Erbil, titled “Towards a balanced religious preaching based on humanity and social peace”, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani invited religious scholars to play their role in combating extremist thoughts and promote tolerance and coexistence.
He said, “It is in the interest of the people of Kurdistan and the region that you actively contribute, along with religious scholars and researchers throughout the world, to the adoption of a global strategy towards eradicating extremism in the region.”
At the conference, which was held by the KRG Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Prime Minister Barzani stated, “We must identify all sources of violence in our society. We must do it courageously. We must eliminate violence in religious sermons, educational programmes, culture and daily life.”
Following is the text of Prime Minister Barzani’s speech:
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate,
Good morning esteemed religious scholars, ministers and foreign diplomats
It is a pleasure to be with you today at this conference, titled “Towards a balanced religious preaching based on humanity and social peace”. This is an important conference and it is held at a crucial time. I hope it will produce positive results.
We are meeting here today, safe and secure, due to the resilience and heroism of our Peshmerga and security forces fighting against the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world for more than two years. The Peshmerga forces act with great bravery in protecting Kurdistan and destroying ISIS forces.
By acting under the name of Islam, this organization damages the reputation of our holy religion. But with their high moral values and by destroying ISIS terrorist organization and protecting all the peoples and components in the region, the Peshmerga forces have become the source of pride for Kurdistan people and the world.
The images of the morning prayer of the Peshmergas before attacking the occupying ISIS terrorists, the images of the Peshmergas liberating and protecting women and children of the villages under ISIS, without any religious or ethnic distinction, reflect Peshmergas’ high moral values which they have embraced throughout Kurdistan revolutions.
Here I want to salute and pay tribute to our martyred Peshmergas. We are all liable to their heroism and sacrifices of those heroes and beloved ones. We also salute the Iraqi forces who, alongside the Peshmerga and Coalition forces, pursue the operation of liberation of Mosul.
Esteemed religious scholars,
The people of Kurdistan and its Peshmergas expect from you to actively participate, with enlightened thoughts, in eradicating extremism and terrorism. Our senior religious scholars were teaching us how to coexist with other religions. They were teaching us how let people feel safe with us. This is why opposing other religions is inappropriate for us or for any humane society. Due to the important role you play, protecting Kurdistan society and its reputation, development and stability is mainly your responsibility.
Here, I like to point very frankly to two important issues, which are spreading extremist thoughts and politicisation in the mosques. It is important that you debate these two issues in order to see how to prevent them.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is fully committed to the human principles of Islam. However, it stands against using Islam and mosques as the tool or place of promoting violence and extremism. It is the Kurdistan Regional Government’s duty to eradicate and uproot extremism through education programmes, at mosques and all the religious and educational institutions, and strengthen the culture of coexistence. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been in the past and will continue to commit to this principle, but your continuous support is much needed.
It is the duty of the KRG to observe all the places including the mosques. It is not allowed that any political party take advantage of religious places and use them, in the name of Islam, for their own political interests. The religious scholars, who do so lead our society to internal divisions, undermine social stability, and politicise the religion. Such practices are against all religious and legal principles and the relevant institutions must work to prevent them. No religious scholar and no political party are allowed to give legitimacy to its party’s activities and oppose another party in the name of Islam.
Religious and sectarian tension has led Iraq to the current detrimental state, as we are witnessing today. We do not want to see this happening in the Kurdistan Region in any way. In mosques, people should be encouraged, on the basis of Islamic principles, to embrace tolerance and coexistence. Mosques should not be used to promote divisions and implicate people in the political disputes.
Militarily, the defeat of ISIS continues. However, what is important is eliminating the ground which created ISIS. This is important for us as Mosul, proclaimed ISIS capital, is just next to us. Moreover its most horrific barbaric acts were committed in Kurdistan, such as the abduction of our Kurdish Yezidi sisters and mothers.
You must deliberate on this cruelty and clearly explain to everyone, from religious viewpoint, its disapproval by all the religious principles. Awareness is a significant tool to be used to prevent people to be misled by ISIS and other extremist organisations’ anti-religious and anti-human preaching and practices.
ISIS declared Mosul its capital and its centre of authority. Iraqi forces are now attacking it from all sides to liberate it. God willing, it will be freed in a short period of time with minimal loss. But the factors of the emergence of ISIS, its surge and ability to last for more than 29 months in Mosul and other areas need to be investigated.
Undermining religious and sectarian coexistence, emergence of sectarian domination and disregarding others were important factors which led to the rise of ISIS and its control in a short period of time over the arsenal of six Iraqi army divisions. The important question here is, are there any plans and policies set to remove the factors and grounds which led to emergence of ISIS? What has been important for us in the Kurdistan Region from the outset, is reaching a vision and agreement with the Iraqis and coalition countries on how to eliminate these factors and create appropriate conditions that meet the aspirations of the people of these regions, for that ISIS and similar groups will not rise anymore. Unfortunately, we have not reached a conclusion in this regard yet.
The Kurdistan Region leadership has nationalist objectives, but it believes that it is in the interests of the people of Kurdistan to have safe and stable neighbours, free from internal and sectarian disputes. Through the sacrifices and resistance of their Peshmerga forces, the people and political leadership of the Kurdistan Region have shown that they stand against terrorism and are ready to help secure peace in the entire region, as coexistence and solidarity with other people are deeply rooted in Kurdish history.
Esteemed religious scholars,
The terrorist acts carried out by Al-Qaeda and later by ISIS have shown that these organisations are not a threat only to the countries where they emerged, but to the entire world.
As a political agreement has not been reached yet for post-ISIS Iraq and the absence of an international political agreement on a new plan to prevent the rise of similar groups in the region, your role is important in launching a scientific and religious debate to help eliminate sources of extremism. This debate needs to include provisions demanding politicians to reach an agreement on how to administrate the area. In this regard, it is important for you to establish relations with enlightened religious scholars in other Islamic countries and research centres abroad. This would help broaden the debate on how to eliminate radicalism and establish peace in the region.
The people, Peshmerga and Presidency of the Kurdistan Region have played a leading role in stopping the attacks and defeating ISIS forces on the ground with the help of the coalition forces. It is in the interest of the people of Kurdistan and the region that you actively contribute, along with religious scholars and researchers throughout the world, to the adoption of a global strategy towards eradicating extremism in the region.
The violence in the areas surrounding Kurdistan has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of people displaced. What we see should encourage us to further promote the culture of tolerance, coexistence and non-violence among us.
We must identify all sources of violence in our society. We must do it courageously. We must eliminate violence in religious sermons, educational programmes, culture and daily life.
Our culture of coexistence will help to advance of our society. No violent society has been able to live in peace or prosper. Coexistence and tolerance would help to obtain the international support. We all remember that night when the U.S. President Barack Obama declared the start of air attacks to protect Erbil and the people of Kurdistan. This has highlighted the fact that the people of Kurdistan, who have a rich culture of coexistence, have created an example in the region which they should preserve.
Forty-six years ago, the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union was founded at the initiative of Mustafa Barzani, the leader of Kurdistan revolution and with the participation of renowned religious scholars across Kurdistan. As this Union became a source of unity in Kurdistan in the past, you should now work together with the same spirit to promote coexistence and adopt a way of preaching that promotes peace and stability, free from religious violence.
I wish you success and look forward to positive outcomes of your conference.