Diary of Kurdistan – Day 3

(Note: Simultaneous translation in English was provided, and I took notes as best I could… However, in literal translation, the actual meaning of a statement may not be reflected… It is for this reason that I have included quotes and information that appears on the Conference’s catalog.)

Conference: December 14, 2016

The Role of Religion and Education in Confronting Terrorism

Moderator: Dr. Muhammad Shakir M.Salih,

Dean of the College of Islamic Science at Salahaddin University. Dr. Muhammad is a member and one of the founders of the Islamic Thought Forum; he is editor-in-chief at Hawsang (“Balance”) and Nwesazi (“Renewal”) magazines. In his position summary  he “tackles the following issues: 1) Is religious education in crisis in Kurdistan’s Universities? ; 2) Is Islamic education in Kurdistan’s Universities satisfactory? and 3) How can we undertake reform in religious education?…

  • Panelists:
  • Bahman Tahir Nariman is one of the founders of the Hajan Centre and Jiyar Centre and a member of the editorial board of Hajan Magazine. He has published articles on Islam, Islamism. He works for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research – Kurdistan Institution for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research.  In Mr. Bahman’s position abstract he writes of “the Kurds’ aspirations for their own statehood”… and adds, ” in building a modern state, the educational system has to fulfill an incredibly tremendous role for creating a deeply patriotic citizenry….inculcating them from kindergarten to University with  a ‘socio-political philosophy’…. What kind of a person will turn out? A person who believes in democracy, freedom, and dialogue…or someone who professes the opposite?”  He notes the work of Paulo Freire in addressing these concepts. (Paulo Freire, a Portuguese educator and philosopher influenced by Karl Marx, wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
  • Hawzheein Mala Ameen holds a Master’s degree in Islamic Philosophy from Sulaimani University . In his position summary, Mr. Hawzheein emphasizes the secularization of education and  “…all, or the major religions should be studied together…the historic commonalities should be emphasized,…the teaching of religion in schools should contain the basic human values and human rights…and  [showcase] the  fundamental principles of human morality… Instead of academizing the study of Islamic sharia, there is a need to study religion from a philosophical perspective…”
  • Dr. Omed Rafeeq Fatah specializes in modern political thought, has conducted several studies in the fields of security and public policy and the role of intelligence in the fight against terror. In his position summary, Mr. Omed states that “defeating ISIS will be the critical juncture for rebuilding a new Iraq… What will the future relations between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq be like?  For him, there are 4 scenarios for a post liberated Mosul: 1) The Sunni – Turkish – Saudi project; 2) The Kurdish – American project; 3)The Shiite-Iranian project; 4) The Shiite – Military project.. He writes of the conflict that exists between Turkey and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), and the Turks not accepting their existence. And then there is Mosul…

The discussion  included these pronouncements:

  • The role of education in civic life, and the obligations of a person living within society, his religious circumstances and or/secular circumstances…he should be held accountable for his actions….
  • The opportunity to live with others …Where is Religion in civic life?  The argument should be made in support of religious education to help  civilization.  “If we focus on Islam, then we should focus on moderate Islam which is accepting of other Religions. And… “if we focus on Religious education, what Religion?” Kurdistan is an example of multi-ethnicity and multi-faiths…”If the state chooses a Religion… the focus may be on Islam (because of a larger Muslim population)  and then which Islam will be the one selected… Sufi, Salafi?
  • We are living in a country where conflicts, differences abound…two [types of] Islamists fighting each other ..Then all Religions should be equal. One and same God to all Religions…”
  • The issue of ISIS and how to deal with this.  “If we don’t accept each other and deal with this extremism, fanatism now, terrorism in the future…” “…We should be discussing the  interpretation of Islamic ideology (Religion can become a great motivator for  extremism or stability…)
  • Kurdistan is not open to rule by Religion…[If  using] Islamic slogans, women may raise children with those slogans… Clear vision for the role of Religion in education- an anti-God education causes “explosions…”in society.
  • What do we want? A secular, civic state… Islamism or secularism…  Define things clearly… A social contract on how to deal with “others..” The role of education…Human kind, we need each other… the world is getting smaller as a result of technology….. Implement ethical values of religious understanding…”We have to take only the good values of theology rather than the extremes…”
  • Criticism of countries whose educators are not teaching their students how to analyze, how to question authority…. but instead are manipulated with orders…There is a need to review and reform education;  to re-evaluate the education curriculum.
  •  Mistakes in methods of teaching: the [change, reform of the] curriculum of Islamic education should be universal
  • The Universities are the key to the solution…A new system [in Kurdistan]  has been implemented in which students may now apply to Universities of their choice and select their major in studies.
  • Islamic Studies- the importance of modernizing the teaching approach- “change the rules and regulations based on the times…”
  • References to France and the period in 1804… The French Constitution which changed over time…
  • The quality of education: the method of  teaching and learning… “by heart, “memorizing … ”  having a negative impact on the student… “Academic Research has to come up with new ideas…the circle of Jihad is wide…” The teachers may be the problem…they do not want students to argue with them but rather want them to become a copy of themselves…  Great subjects should be taught by  independent scholars, not influenced by religion…
  • Society and Religion- problems, issues… the main drive of our society…References to the French and the  Bolshevik Revolutions: “mistakes made  in implementing the separation of Church and State…” (Although…the  Soviet Union’s communism   suppressed, and eliminated all religion from the public square…. “Within about a year of the revolution, the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed. Many more were persecuted” -Wikipedia. .
  • Imposition of Secularism or Religion…History of autocratic/totalitarian regimes… Nazism, Communism, Baathism…imposing a “totalitarian”grip on society… “We have to build a society based on the rule of law, a well developed democracy…” References to Iran.

After the panel discussion questions were raised by members of the audience. One that caught my attention was one by a woman:

  • The role of women: and discrimination…, using Religion as a tool [of oppression] She pointed to   the fact that “from 1 to 6 years of age a child is building his/her personality” and how the Mother is treated will leave a mark on the child… ( Note: Years ago I watched a PBS Documentary on the early childhood of both Stalin and Hitler  on their unhappy early years…The  comparisons were astounding…. I think it may be this one from 1991 .)
  • On January 13, 2017 I found a note made by my Father regarding this subject…:

Stalin: Born small village Gori 1879; Psyche-history: paranoid; Father, drunken shoemaker, alcoholic;Savagely beat mother and son defended her; Beaten by father until blood in his urine (leaving a lasting impression on him); stubborn, violent side. Anarchist, never grew tall, inferiority complex; in school began writing romantic poetry, then turned nihilistic and violent; 1894 impressed teachers at Seminary, but was violent and went for Anarchism, Terrorism and then Marxism…

Hitler: Born small village 1889; Mother married public servant, Father, (Schicklburger) was the illegitimate son of domestic servant and Jewish boss, a rigid cold disciplinarian.; Hitler wanted to escape from home since the age of 10 and his father beat him for trying to escape, a beating  which developed into a coma; heregarded himself as unworthy to live; shameful of his low retreating forehead; sang in choir, felt unworthy, 1900 Medicre in school, wanted to be an artist, painted…In 1905 droppedout of school…

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Kurdistan Regional Government after the War with ISIS

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Moderator: Dr. Chnar Saad Abdullah

Member of the Kurdistan Parliament from 2004-2005; Minister of Anfal and Martyrs, 2005-2008. Dr.Abdullah is a member of the PDK pary, an activist in civil society and a member of a women’s peace group. “The destiny of society after the war…,what will happen to the social landscape and structure?… the social changes (change in demographics) and challenges ahead after dismantling ISIS… ,” is a question which appears in her position summary…

  • Panelists:
  • Dr. Abdulhakim Khasro, lecturer of Political Science at Salahaddin University and a Research Fellow at the Institute of Research and Development in Kurdistan (IRDK). He is a member of the committee for preparing the Kurdistan Region’s Constitution for the purposes of a referendum. His position summary cites “the need for the international community to find solutions to fundamental problems that led to the birth of ISIS …”  He makes reference  to  an American military force that should remain (with a base in Kurdistan) rather than withdraw as in 2011; the Peshmerga forces  to be included in an international alliance and the need to begin negotiations between the KRG and the Iraqi government on the issue of “independence.”
  • Fareed Asasard, editod-in-chief of Alsharara (the Spark) and Rebazi (New Method) newspapers…and other magazines and radio.  In his position abstract, he notes…”In the countries which go through conflict and war, there is always a noticeable difference in the political and economic life prior and post conflict… He suggests “a major and fundamental review of KRG’s internal and external policies, a transparent strategy…”
  • Dr. Omed Rafeeq Fatah is a lecturer of law and political science at the University of Sulaimani… His position abstract deals with post ISIS and the future relations between Iraq and Kurdistan…

Highlights:

  • ISIS…a new era…distinct from  WWI and WWII eras… Only region in which the government cannot pay the salaries of staff members… Kurdistan’s political-economic crisis. Parliament cannot function. Then the question of who is our ally? Turkey? Iran? Syria?Baghdad?  We do not have a unified strategy…a stark political process… The world is  looking to the Peshmerga…Kurdistan needs them to protect our boundaries… We have to review policies, methods, practice. We should try a new internal policy…Take advantage of lessons learned from past mistakes… Article 40 of Iraq Constitution… Convert Peshmerga into a well organized army which will be able to protect Kurdistan…Provide them with salaries,….whatever economic and political crisis, it  should not affect the Peshmerga…
  • The state of political parties; their independence may be  a threat to peace and stability…Problems with independence…Iran and Turkey? Iran?  After ISIS: what terror threats? and what type of ME?  1/3 of Iraqi forces have fallen into terrorist hands… Syria opened doors for terrorists in Mosul…
  • The Future of Kurds…diversification of Religion…Christian Yezidis will not remain. Kurdistan is a stable place..,maintain policy of openeness
  •  In conflicts/wars everyone identifies with a political system… Iraq, after ISIS should be different.  What will the job of the Peshmerga be after ISIS?  Kurds and Sunis not satisfied with current system…[in Iraq?] Different political projects for Tikkrit, Mosul… Kurdistan to manage areas legally …by constitution, referendum…What other options for Sunis? Islamic or Secular? If Sunis are not represented, who is going to lead them, who is going to represent them? Suni can eliminate ISIS in areas or have help from Kurdistan
  • If Mosul is liberated how will it be managed?  Kurdistan facing issues in Ninevah- disputed area…
  • New Isis? In Shingal… ( Read The Kurdistan Project :In August 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) attacked the town of Sinjar. The Kurdish Peshmerga was defeated, and a mass exodus occurred, including much of the Yazidi community.  Thousands of Yazidis took refuge on Mount Sinjar, fighting thirst and hunger for months. In December of 2014, the Peshmerga led an offensive against ISIS that ultimately ended the siege of Mount Sinjar,  liberating hundreds of Yazidi from the ISIS threat..)…From now on there should be a plan…
  • Dr. Abdullah…speaks as a sociologist, and questions the social structure of Kurdistan after ISIS…the changes in society, demographically… The IDP’s (Internal Displaced Persons) , 54% under 15 years of age…More than 1.8 million refugees…Religious crimes, 1600 Peshmerga martyrs, 9,000 wounded… PSTD’s? How long will the process take?  Fighting ISIS has affected people…human rights, democratization, food security…”we have regressed…., not advance with this phenomenon..”
  • The issue of “poligamy” and unemployment; Iraq cutting the budget for Kurdistan…economic crisis impacted by war.

The questions raised by the attendees dealt with the issue of statehood, historical issues, the Yazidis , the Peshmerga securing the borders, the case of children separated from their parents and homeland because of the atrocities committed against their communities (Halabja Chemical attack during Saddam Hussein’s time)…The burden on the population still have to continue to fight the ideology…an independent Kurdistan…an advantage for the Region…Terrorism divides the region…political questions, social justice… The future…war destroyed infrastructure… rebuild society…consequence of war on the population…impact in the long term…

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Dilemmas of Religious Communications in the Kurdistan Region

Moderator: Bahman Tahir Nariman

One of the founders of the Hajan Centre and Jiyar Centre, he is  a member of the editorial board of Hajan Magazine. He has published articles on Islam, Islamism. He works for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research – Kurdistan Institution for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research.  In Mr. Bahman’s position abstract he writes of “the Kurds’aspirations for their own statehood… and in building a modern state, the educational system has to fulfill an incredibly tremendous role for creating a deeply patriotic citizenry….inculcating from kindergarten to University  a ‘socio-political philosophy’…. What kind of a person will turn out? A person who believes in democracy, freedom, and dialogue…” or someone who professes the opposite?  He notes the work of Paulo Freire in addressing these concepts. (Paulo Freire, a Portuguese educator and philosopher influenced by Karl Marx, wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

  • Dr. Sabah Mohammed Albarzanji, is a lecturer in several colleges of Sulaimani University. Dr. Albarzanji has published books and articles in the fields of Fiqh (deep understanding” of Islamic jurisprudence) and Islamic legislation. He holds a Doctoral degree in Fiqh and the basics of Islamic Legislation from Tehran University.) His position abstract  notes the importance of religious communication and the problems …
  • Abdurhaman Sideeq, is  secretary-general of the Islamic thought forum in Kurdistan and advisor on the Board of the Right of Self-determination in the Kurdistan Parliamentary Union. His position abstract  deals with the methods used in religious communication and the need to modernize and implement “Kurdish” filters on foreign religious literature…
  • Ibrahim Muhammad Tahir Al-Barzanji is the director of research at the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs… He holds a Masters’ degree on Islamic Jurisprudence

Highlights of the panel discussion

  • Different aspects of the “Message” in Islam-different interpretations, different perspectives…
  • Who is responsible for the message?
    • Reformers want a  new approach… more realistic… How we bring Religion to people and  how we overcome the challenges? Whose  responsibility?  Independent message or aligned with some kind of thought?  “True believers should not look at secular people as infidels…if we believe that everybody is heavenly oriented…”
  • Real Islamic Theology: in behavior…ethics, attitude, good ethics, good Muslim.
  • Forgiveness…a key element in “peaceful living…” Tolerance, …freedom and prosperity… “Living together is living…or making life impossible. We do not have a role in selecting who sits beside us…”
  • What is the purpose of Religion? Arabic and Kurdish differences…
  • Renewal of Religious speech… new message from Mosques…
  • Role of women…

The questions from the audience related to:

  • A woman spoke of the topics as “valuable,” but raised  the violence in society…Who is going to address the [violence] in religious speech?
  • Education and Culture… reform the system… Religion and politics..two different paths… A Center for Religious speakers…to prepare Clergy and speakers on how to address the issues…

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Dr. Nahro Zagros’ (Vice President, Soran University)  closing statement on the Conference..