To KIU: Model of the Islamic Liberals cannot be successful - By Mufid Abdulla

This is a response to the article “Kurdistan Islamic Union, a Successful Model of the Islamic Liberals” by Dana Newzer Ali on 15th February 2009 (

The external history of religion often seems divorced from the faith and content of Islamic law. The spiritual case is an interior journey; it is a psychic rather than political drama. In today’s society, Islam is not about current affairs and progress in human nature but instead is about the past and life outside the soul. Today’s Islam is not about challenging and improving education, health, the judicial system, youth culture and the emancipation of women. On the contrary, it is about fighting other faiths in their constant claim for the monopoly of truth.

In Kurdistan, the claim of the KIU as a successful model of Islamic liberalism is not true and is insubstantial. That model can only be found among the believers and not the ordinary Kurdish people in Kurdistan. Generally the KIU has managed to grow and expand their members in areas such as Halabja and Xurmal which traditionally are dominated by KIU believers. As Karen Armstrong said “The philosophers of Ancient Greece were concerned with the eternal laws underlying the flux of external events, which could be of no real interest to a serous thinker.” . What we have in Kurdistan as a religion is no different from that in Egypt or Turkey. What the KIU is telling us is that the secular system in Kurdistan is a means by which religion can liberate us from the corruption which exists within the state.

The KIU party was born in the 1990s when the tragedies taking place in Kurdish society had become almost unthinkable. Men, women and children struggled to have one portion of food a day due to the harsh situation in Kurdistan due to Iraqi state sanctions. The whole Iraqi government at this time was withdrawing and being filled by Kurdish civil servants, who of course worked without wages for several years. People were removing the doors and windows from their homes to sell on the black market to buy basic bread. During that period the KIU brought donations and relief efforts from the Saudis and other Gulf states to feed the citizens of Kurdish society. These were positive actions to save the nation at that time but not at the expense of our nationalism. At the same time, aid was mostly donated to people who were affiliated with the KIU, particularly in most of the universities where they tried to encourage young women to cover their head, etc.

Dana Newzer Ali states in his article that, “The messiah was KIU and its new model of political challenge”. The KIU has not challenged anything as such recently. The only event took place four weeks ago with the alliance of the KIU and three Kurdish parties such as the socialist, Toiler party. The parties issued a joint statement which raised more criticism of the KRG and demanded a reform. Within a week the KRG’s response was that you cannot act in opposition when you are also at the same time a part of the government, and also used the example of Salahuddin Bahaadin who actually participated in most meetings in the Salahuddin venue for the KDP leadership.

The corruption in Kurdistan is not carried out only  by the leaders of the KDP and PUK, but by all the people surrounding them. The KIU general secretary is a well known, respected individual coming from a religious and scholarly family in the town of Biara in Hawraman, an area in the south of Kurdistan. As he originally came from this area, he spent a lot of time in the past in Iran and his main influence was from the international brotherhood around the world, this led to his decision to set up a Kurdish branch. We must consider what it would be like if a corridor of power was opened to him such as him becoming Prime Minister or being part of a large-scale ministerial portfolio in the KRG or Iraq.

The KIU presents itself as a purely political party without resorting to a militia group which is something we must all admit is a credit to the party and their founder.  We should not forget that the KIU was born after the 1990s, and did not have any participation in armed struggles; that is another reason for it not having armed people. However, I still do not consider the KIU as a real political party with a real agenda for Kurdistan who can present a real challenge to the two main corrupted parties. We are now at risk of tilting the balance between the Kurdistan Regional Government and citizens too far in the wrong direction.

Dana also states in his article that: “Reform needs to be organized and generalized on every aspect of life because corruption has been organised.” For example, if the KIU was in power and had control of the Kurdistan Regional Government the state institutions would have to measure up everything to the Quranic ideal; if their political leaders were cruel or exploitative, or if their community was humiliated by apparently irreligious enemies, the majority of Muslims could feel that his or her faith in life was in jeopardy. Of course the KIU can attempt to put Islamic history back on track but can it also be possible that they can lead the reform, or have a real understanding of the meaning of reform? The definition of reform is to make changes in something so as to improve it. We are living in the 21st century in a world which is globalised economically and socially. Therefore, today’s politics reflect a global economic system which is completely new and the question is whether it is possible for the Islamic system to meet all the demands of society? I know the KIU has a lot of female members in their grassroots ranks and leadership but what is their attitude towards a man having four wives? How would the KIU respond to social deprivation and poverty? I do not think Islam can provide any long-term solutions and it would be very difficult for the essence of the Islamic vision to be compatible with our modern world.

What the KIU has expressed is a Marxist revolutionary idea rather than a liberal Islamic one since one of the chief characteristics of Islam has been its sacralization of history. In the 1940s, the Muslim Brotherhood became the most powerful political force in Egypt until, in 1952, the revolution of the free officers led by Jamal Al-Nasser deposed King Faruk. Al-Nasser suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood and imprisoned thousands of Brothers in concentration camps. The KIU has grown for the last fifteen years not as a main result of their own dedication but instead because of the poor performance of Kurdish nationalism by both the KDP and PUK. The KIU is rising because of the disunity of the real nationalist groups in Kurdistan and evident failure in practising democracy. That is the reason we cannot get away from politics, our people have a deep hunger for democracy without politics.

The KIU was invited by President Obama to a party congress in America and as the only party in the south of Kurdistan this was undeniably considered a positive action internationally. However, the KIU should not be proud of financial support from the AK Turkish party and other support from the Gulf States. I can conclude that the AK Party aids and supports the KIU and as a result their motives are not pure. Basically, these aids undermine Kurdish nationalism and uphold the Islamic vision among the Kurds in the south. Otherwise why not divert these aids to their poor Kurds in the north? Turkey is still an Ataturk state and all their motives are to buy support to attack the Kurds in the north from the south by the Kurds themselves.

In conclusion, the emergence of the KIU 15 years ago was based not on nationalistic depression or a response to aggressive forces but on the decision of the Muslim Brotherhood to convey the main principle of leaders such as Hassan Bana and others, through the Kurdish channel. The KIU was not born to revitalise the Kurdish nationalist flame and achievement of an independent Kurdish state, but contrarily their message first and foremost has always been, and will remain, to Islam. The support from the Turkish AK party is not aimed to help poor Kurds but to undermine the role and ideas of the PKK in the north of Kurdistan. The Islamic-Liberal model cannot be successful and never has been in the south of Kurdistan. The word ‘liberal’ has been misused in this context; Islam cannot favour individual liberty.


Top of page

February 22, 2008
.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)
Economist Banner
GigaGolf, Inc.