Kurdish Imams should wage an ideological war against ISIS

YPG fighter in Koban — Photo: Max Retallack.
YPG fighter in Koban — Photo: Max Retallack.

The current dynamics of Middle East has inevitably raised questions about the various ways the Islamic religion can be interpreted. Some of the interpretations have cause havoc, and used as justification to commit horrendous crimes against humanity, of which many argue are not part of Islam.

The ongoing problems we are seeing throughout Middle east are a result of several political and regional factors — rising poverty, corruption, nepotism, wars, dictatorships and more. Underlying all this, is the elephant in the room. The diverse interpretations of Islam.

There is an increasing need to re-evaluate the role Kurdish imams play within Kurdistan region. Whether academics and politicians choose to recognise their influence socially or not, there is little doubt that they play a crucial societal role in shaping public opinion, at least a significant percentage of the population still perceives their role as valuable.

The problem is, the majority of these Imams, collectively, have failed to live up to the standard expected of them. They sit behind their pillars giving sermons without actually participating in the daily-public issues that people face.

For instance, how many Imams have been volunteering at the refugee camps to assist those at the lowest in their life? One, two, three or perhaps none at all. Instead, they have left their hefty roles empty, despite being valuable members of society. Their contribution to the good of this society should not be just behind pillars.

In contrast to the above, how many Imams have we seen campaign positively to change policies — to bring the communities closer, particularly religious minority groups? How many have acted as callers of peace, bearers of truth? Instead, they are focused on trivial and petty issues, screaming on top of their lungs every Friday without understanding the magnitude of the role they have pursued.

We need our Imams to act collectively, to affront notorious groups such as ISIS. Their role is to play an ideological war on this notorious group, to reassure the public that they have tainted the religion of Islam through their extremist, literalist and archaic interpretations. We need them to be at the forefront of this ideological war, not at the end of it, silently onlooking the situation.

On numerous occasions, I have listened to sermons on Friday in Kurdistan Region’s Erbil city, and to my disappointment the topics of focus are always women, women, women. There’s no emphasis on love, generosity, kindness, charity — all of which are integral parts of Islam, but are sidelined.

This is not to say that all of them are like this. There are some who have campaigned inside Mosques for donations to be sent to refugees, and their campaigns have been vastly successful. But, more must be done beyond the Mosque.

If Kurdish Imams do not reevaluate their positions in society, they will soon become irrelevant and insignificant as the newer generation will not find them to be a consolidating voice.

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