The Kurdish Globe
Interview by Shorsh Ghafuri
Globe's Interview withDr. Adel Bakawan -- Part I
Globe: What is the impact of Kurdistan's economic opening on the future of political Islam?
Bakawan: I answered the same question at the "Good governance and Economic Development: Theory and Practice" conference, but the Turkish friends did not understand. I believe that Arab and Islamic countries including Kurdistan, as Kurdistan is part of the Arab and Islamic world rather than part of Europe and North America, are part of the society that is called the Arab and Islamic society.
They are part of this in terms of culture, ethics and politic, a part in terms of religion. For any analysis, Kurdistan should be put in this context, which is called the Arab society context. Any explanation out of this context is wrong, and any comparison of Kurdistan with Paris, London and Washington; Islam with Christianity is wrong. This is the principle of sociology. The second principle is that the more our bases and economic infrastructures become stronger in the Arab world, the more the countries and societies develop economically, the more the social aspects closes down.
The more our political society opens, the more we will turn our social life into hell. But I don't mean the religious meaning of hell. Let me give you some examples: from Erbil to Casablanca, where I have made research as in other cities in some Moroccan cities, and from there to Sulaimaniya, you see that the political ground is opened for Islamic groups. In Morocco, the Justice and Development Party have now formed government. In Tunis, the Nahza Party has established a party. In Egypt the Speaker of the Parliament and majority of Parliament members are Islamists, and moreover a presidential candidate is of an Islamic character. We can talk about the post-Assad Syria, where the first party who can monopolize the political ground, are the Islamic groups. Let's forget about Yemen, which is Islamic in nature. In our Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Kurdistan Islamic Community (KIC) and Kurdistan Islamic Movement (KIM) have entered the political field deeply.
In the political field, there are two groups, the ruling groups that are on the top, and the ruled group that are on the bottom. For the second group to become political characters, they need to recognize all the needs, norms, strategies, conditions and dreams that the ruling group, i.e. the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), have set. When the ruled group recognizes the ruling groups, the latter also recognize the former as legal actors in the political field.
The time has passed for KIU, KIC and KIM in Kurdistan, Justice and Development in Morocco, Nahza in Tunis, Islamic Rescue Front in Algeria or Muslim Brothers in Syria talk about Islamic state. Islamic State, which was the first principle of Islamism that was established in 1928 after four years following the Ottoman rule, consists of two things; one is returning the society to Islamism, and re-establishing the Islamic state. And the state consists of three things; Shura, Sharia, and Amir. Currently the Islamists have completely turned their back on forming states and don't want to form an Islamic state.
On the other hands, the Islamic scientists for instance the Kurdistan Islamic Scientists Union, and even the secular parties in the region including the leftists, have a number of society Islamizing institutions. For instance when you go to the strongholds of the secular parties, you can see group prayers; everyone is fasting; everyone goes on pilgrimage and so on. I want to say that KIU and KIC are not more religious than KDP, PUK or even the Kurdistan Communist Party (KCP). Now the whole society is turning itself back into an Islamic society. The Islamist groups both in Kurdistan and elsewhere in the region have lost control and rule over their societies on the one hand, and they have also turned their back on the state, on the other. So, what is remaining? And there is no ideology left either. So, they have entered the political field. There is an agreement between KDP and PUK in Kurdistan, the leftist leftists and the rightist rightists in Palestine, and in majority of the Arab countries without being an official agreement. The agreement is that the leftists tell the Islamists "you can involve in the political field, we will leave the society for you.?
Here in Kurdistan, the Islamic parties are ready to participate in the government and those very secular parties are willing to leave their seats for them, but you will never see in your life that those Islamic groups allow you to drink a beer in the street. It means that they are ready to work in the political ground, hold elections, and get into coalitions with the KDP and PUK, but they will never let you kiss your wife in the street, go to a swimming pool with your daughter. In short I would like to say that the future of the political Islam in the Middle East is their becoming democratic on the political level, while closing and moving towards conservatism on the social level.
Globe: If, as you say the political field in the Middle East is suitable for the Islamic groups to participate in power and forget about their Islamic state dream, how do you see the future of the Islamic groups in Kurdistan' Doesn't this mean the withdrawal of secularism, since in your view about the changes in the Middle East, closeness and spiritualism expands in Kurdistan and the society becomes more restricted?
Bakawan: I understand this question. It is normal for a journalist to talk in this way, since it is his job as a journalist. But a sociologist does not have the authority to use these words. I will speak in a different linguistic system. Isn't the merging of the political groups into the political field, and the permission of the secular groups for their participation threats on the future and the opening of the society?
The first point that is taken for granted is that we are supposed to have secular powers in Kurdistan. But for me as a sociologist, it is not that straight forward. I believe we don't have secular powers in the society in the region, and the structure the Islamic groups have is the same religious structure of the PUK and KDP. When there is a religious structure that forms the mind and social relationships, then there will be no hope for you to talk about secularism. Let me give you some examples. When you marry a woman, the bride does not go to a Mulla and you go to the republic, both of you go to the same Mulla. When you are born the same Mulla reads Quran in your ears, and when you die a Mulla comes and reads Quran in your funeral, and even the economy of this country is also run by the religious structure. So it is very normal that one day the leader of one of these ruling parties of Kurdistan preaches in a mosque. Don't be surprised to see this. The Islamic groups are not more religious than those "secular" groups.