Monday, 04 June 2012, 09:45 GMT
I am the minister of Muslims, Christians, Yezidis and all the people of Kurdistan

KRG Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs Kamil Haji Ali./GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamid

The Kurdish Globe

Interview with the new KRG Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs Kamil Haji Ali

- Kamil Haji Ali is born in Babaile area in Halabja in 1955.

- He was the Secretary of the Kurdistan Islamic Movement?s Politbureau between 2005 and 2010

- He is the minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs on the Kurdistan Islamic Movement share since the sixth cabinet

- He was one of the co-founders of his party, which was founded in 1978.

Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Kamil Haji Ali, argues that the draft law for the protection of religious values is designed to protect all the religions in Kurdistan and will ensure that no religious leader can attack other religions.

Globe: The draft law for protecting religious values raised some criticism as the draft law reads that for a typo one can be sentenced to three years in jail. Is this law suitable for Kurdistan?

Ali: Swearing at God and the Prophet is the ultimate level of weakness. Swearing hurts others. God and the Prophet are not sitting next to you that you can behave with them in the way you like. When you swear at them you swear at people around you, at everyone. This draft law defines the limits of freedom.

When you go to any country or city, they have a specific set of laws and regulations and if you breach any of them you will be punished for the breach according to the laws. And this law determines the punishments. Some people say this law is not in the interest of the Muslims. There are Islamic scientists who swear at other religions. This law prevents any kind of disrespect towards any religion. Why should I hurt others around me' We should respect and tolerate each other. Everyone has his own belief and he is free about this. But this has a limit. We support the legislation of this law to guarantee that no one can hurt others. We want it to be in the interest of everyone.

Globe: So, Islamic scientists cannot talk about other religions in a disrespectful manner?

Ali: Islamic scientists cannot attack other religions. God states: Do not swear at their gods, so that they don't swear at your God.' We cannot even swear at the Devil. We have sent all these regulations to the Islamic scientists, and anyone who breaches them will be punished. We have questioned a number of the scientists who have breached them. We believe in Prophet Jesus and Prophet Moses the same way we believe in Prophet Mohammed.

Globe: A number of Islamic scientists had a role in fueling the May 8th demonstrations in Erbil. Why you did not question them or punish them?

Ali: We condemned the demonstrations. Region's Prime Minister promised to implement all the demands of the Islamic scientists, and they announced that they are against the demonstrations. We refute claims that any Islamic scientists encouraged anyone to participate in the demonstrations.

No Islamic scientist participated in the demonstrations and they were all against the demonstrations. Three of our scientists, who did not participate in the demonstrations, were arrested. Some people misused the demonstrations for their personal interests. We thank all those who helped calm down the situations. I thank those police forces who did not show any reaction towards the demonstrators. We are concerned that the Islamic scientists were arrested without consulting us.

Globe: Do you think any party or group was behind Erbil demonstrations?

Ali: The demonstration was not in the interest of anyone. There might be people who participated in the demonstration without any ideological background. There might be people who intended to change the direction of the demonstrations in the way it happened, but we cannot accuse anyone. The demonstrators wanted to attack Ministry of Endowment as well.

Globe: Majority of your visits are to the mosques, while you have least participation in the activities of the Chrisitians, Yezidis and other religions in Kurdistan. This is at a time when you have two directorate generals for Christians and Yezidis?

Ali: This is not true. I have visited all the religions. We visited the Yezidis in their religious ceremonies. We had official statements on the occasion of the New Year and the birth of Prophet Jesus and we also visited them (Christians). It is unfortunate that the Yezidis and Christians do not have any complaints for me, while others raise complaints. I don't know what the problem is. I am the Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs of the region and for every individual in this region.

Globe: Head of Endowment Committee at the Parliament criticized you for not having any reaction about the arrest of Islamic scientists?

Ali: The scientists themselves are a proof against this claim. That day we informed the Islamic Scientists Union about the issue and they informed the Minister of Interior. I called the director general of Erbil's Endowment and asked them to collect information and work on the issue and help free them. Three of our scientists were arrested and are now released. The scientists know to what extent we defend and support them.

Globe: How much was the ministry's revenues last year?

Ali: Our revenues as the ministry was IQD 1.7 billion and this year's revenues will pass IQD 2 billion, because a large number of the ministry's properties were returned to us.

Globe: You owe IQD 2 billion of power bills to the Ministry of Electricity. Why you don't pay this back?

Ali: We have requested the Council of Ministers to settle this loan for us as we cannot make this payment out of our budget.