Sulaimaniyah, Feb. 10 (AKnews) – A boycott against a Kurdish newspaper in Erbil imposed by newsagents saying it contains “blasphemy” has been interpreted as a ”dangerous” beginning to a deepening lack of understanding between intellectuals and clerics in Kurdistan.
The Awene newspaper published on Tuesday an article by the Kurdish intellectual, writer and poet Mohammed Mukri defending a poet whose book was banned in the stores last month after clerics rallied against a poem in his book that described God in a way they said was “blasphemous”.
The ban on the book had already stirred a lot of tension between intellectuals and clerics in the region. Intellectuals accused clerics of inciting people against their freedom of thought and written expression, and of slander in their Friday sermons, while the clerics accused them in turn of disregarding social and religious norms and values.
“Since our community is Muslim by majority, everybody has to respect the religious principles of the community, but neither newsagents nor anybody else can judge what is forbidden and what is not for people,” said Kawa Mahmoud, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s spokesman.
“This is not their business, freedom of thought has to be guaranteed for all in Kurdistan with all the different religious and ways of thinking” Mahmoud said.
As well as defending Qubadi Jalizada in his article, Mukri included a poem by the poet whose book of poems “Styani Bafr Pra la Rishola” (The Corset of Snow is Full of Starlings) sparked an outcry among clerics who attacked him in their Friday sermons and accused him of blasphemy for his depiction of God in an “improper way”.
Jalizada describes God in his poem as sitting with legs outstretched,“tired” and “angry” with mankind. Jalizada’s God is “helpless” in face of the vices and evils of man.
Any personification of God or the attribution of physical characteristics to Him is strictly forbidden in Islam.
The book was subsequently banned from the stores after the clerics, the ministry of endowment and religious affairs and the committee of religious affairs in parliament mounted pressure.
Following the ban on the book, intellectuals pushed on the parliament of Kurdistan for a bill that would curtail the influence of clerics and mosques on written freedom in the future.
They submitted a proposal to parliament according to which, in any of the three provinces of the Kurdistan Region there will be three sermons in three major mosques and these sermons will be broadcast on TV and in other mosques live instead of different sermons in the different mosques.
The fights between the two parties continued for almost two week before the President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani brought them together to sit and discuss ways to ease the tensions.
“All we say is that different views have to be respected in our country, and nobody should watch and judge anybody else” the KRG spokesman, who is also the minister of culture, said.
“We have started to feel that the issue between clerics and intellectuals is being used for a political purpose” he says, “therefore, on Saturday, the KRG will hold a dialogue conference between the clerics and intellectuals to find ways to solve the issue”.
The clerics are supported by Islamic parties and factions of the Kurdish parliament.
Peshawa Sardar, researcher in media and communications at the University of Rome in Italy said, “This is a dangerous beginning, widening the lack of mutual understanding and further deteriorating the social and cultural situation of the Kurdish community because this will allow an individual political actor to easily exploit newsagents to create tensions”.
“I believe it is the duty of the municipality or the Erbil provincial council to punish those newsagents” he said, “so that they can no longer impose meaningless censorships on newspapers and journals”.
But Sardar also believed that the newspapers also had to respect the sanctities and the faith of the majority of the Kurdish community.
Meanwhile, neither the Writers Union nor the Journalists Syndicate has taken a stance condemning or at least begrudging the attitude of the newsagents. Intellectuals have started to doubt the position of the two bodies in such matters.
Idris Abdulqadir Ali, a writer and journalist, says “the Writers Union and Journalists Syndicate are to be blamed for this situation, they must take severe stances” he said, “unfortunately neither of these organizations have expressed a single word of discontent, but…when it comes to supporting the government they are present and ready to issue dozens of statements”.
“Clerics have been pounding on writers and journalist in different ways for a while,” Ali continued, “I think this attitude will contribute to an increase in tensions and violence in our community rather than urging coexistence and calm” .
Reported by Kamaran Subhan, edited by Raber Y. Aziz
Thursday, February 10th 2011 3:36 PM