The Kurdish Globe
Interview by Shorsh Ghafuri
Globe's Interview with Dr. Adel Bakawan -- Last Part
Secularism consists of two things: laicism and secularization. The first works on the state and is about separating the state from religion. Do you have a political power in Kurdistan that does not interfere in religion? All the parties have Religious Scientists? Union. The second works on the society, i.e. the rebuilding of the social relationships and aspects on non-religious values. Give me a value inside the PUK and KDP that is based on non-religious foundations, there is no such a thing. All our values are religious. During this visit, I heard from a politbureau member of one those political parties "we absolutely don't want to change the values, because those very people who vote for us carry these values, and if we change these values, we will lose those voters and the popularity we currently have."
Second, what will happen to the society? Do you think that your society is a liberal-democratic one? How old are you? Are you recognized as an individual and a social actor? Can you have an apartment and live alone? Your existence as an individual living in an apartment is immorality and trespassing the social values, and become like a cancer. When the religious powers come they change the society. Conservatism means protecting what already exists. All the conflicts of the religious groups are to protect the existing moral system.
When there comes a social movement that wants to change this, for instance when a women's organization one day announces that it will start a symbolic and tough conflict to advocate gender equality, then a conflict will begin between the conservative society and the movement. But do you have such an active movement in Kurdistan; are the women expressing the dreams and needs of women? Are the student movements expressing what currently exists?
In this case Kurdistan will have no problem, because Gorran, KDP and PUK agree to preserve the existing values, the Kurdish society will not be shocked. For instance the appearance of a woman with Hijab in a society like that of France will shock the society, because the society has an inherent harmony that realizes that this is a unique case. When you want to go to a mixed swimming pool with your wife, then you are a disease inside the body of this society. You go out of this social harmony. Whether the religious and secular movements democratize themselves on the social level as they do on the political level? Whether they will struggle for the sake of democratic society as they struggle for the sake of democratic politics, The answer is "No."
Globe: So all the individuals in this Kurdish society should stay within the unwritten social laws and norms, and lose hope? So since some 1400 years ago and even before the appearance of the Islamic parties, it has been written in our destiny that "this is our way", and we cannot change our social framework, and if we change it, the largest war will start in the society? Then what is the solution? Do the intellectuals and writers like us need to announce another French Revolution?
Bakawan: 50 years ago the same question was addressed to the American, British, French and western societies, and they were asked to surrender to the reality that the societies are like this and cannot change. They made a fatal mistake, which I call "The foolishness of the western diplomacy." They thought that we need to reach the democracy thousands of youths like you dream of. We need to go through something in the Islamic Arab societies called "the modern world autocracy."
Autocracy is a system in which one individual control all the powers and this individual legitimizes virtually everything, and he should legitimizes you as a director of a TV station, journalist, head of a football team, director of a theater team and owner of a cinema. The western diplomacy thought that this autocracy is very important for the Arab world. This autocracy can create something called economic infrastructure like airports, bridges, metros, large buildings, huge factories and so on the inside a conservative society. The result will come out after four generations (in sociology each generation is 20 years).
The target was to change the societies from inside rather than from outside through technologizing the society, industrializing the society, and changing the social relations closely. For instance you work 7 hours a day, six days a week. When you go back home you are too tired to talk to your parents, brothers and sisters and you need to rest to be able to go back to work next day. So it changes your time. This is one. The second is that work gives you a wage to be independent from your parents. This independence will gradually give you a car, an apartment and a girlfriend of your own, because you cannot marry quickly. The Western policy was to sacrifice four generations, and during these 80 years the society will democratize gradually. But the foolishness of this system is that after 40 years of the reign of these autocrats like Saddam and Bin Ali, the societies are now more conservative than ever, i.e. after two generation the Arab society has never been as conservative as it now is.
Our generations of the 1940's had never been so conservative. Our youths and women were freer that today. Our cinemas and theatres were freer. Today the social relations are more closed. But are we forced to live in this prison forever, Is the only way for us to live like a free individual to go to the US and Europe? Can we regain our freedom? The only answer a sociologist can have is through the birth of social movements. Without a social movement we cannot bring about reform in our society. Social movements are built on three principles. The first thing is not to look at rival as an enemy, but like a competitor. Second principle is moving from a physical conflict form to a civil conflict. The third thing is negotiation. I stand in front of you like a competitor rather than an enemy, but I struggle for my cause through negotiation and do not stop till I achieve my goal.
Out of these three principles something is built which is called resistance. Social movement is a movement that resist till the last breath. You go to jail, no problem. They pour gas on you, no problem. But the important thing is that you don't do the same in return and don't see them as your enemies, have a specific plan and resist.
Globe: How many generations will we need? Should I have a hope in the Kurdish society to bring about social movements? Because what we saw in front of the parliament and other demonstrations in Kurdistan are in no way social movements according to the three principles you mentioned. So how many generations will we need to sacrifice to reach freedom?
Bakawan: Probably your grandchildren, probably three generations, unfortunately.
Globe: You say three generations, but if you look at the developed societies, you will see that they are going back to spiritualism, and it has been for about five years that we hear about the doomsday and the signs of the end of the world. The society is now busier with Nostradamus and 2012, and especially in the Western societies. Since less than 10 years ago in the religious speeches the signs of the end of the world are being addressed. With this big mysticism within the society, is there any hope in freedom in these three generations?
Bakawan: You mentioned something at the beginning of your question about the return of the Europeans to religion. It is true that the Europeans are going back to religion very strongly. For instance 80% of the Swiss define themselves as having a religious identity. 65% of the Swedes, the peak of modernity, believe that there is a God above, but in the way they want. In the whole Europe only 3% of the population is atheist. I am talking about Northern Europe, which is thought to be the land of atheism.
In America, the big heart of modernism, there are 85 million Bible followers who have registered in the church. How do we understand this phenomenon as sociologists? Is this the result of the efforts of the extremist religious organizations that rule the society? No, I explained this in detail in my book "The end of Secularism". I argued that this phenomenon -- the return to religion -- is the beginning of the end of the rule of the religions such as Christianity and Islamism. Why? Because all those Europeans who return to religion, they return to religion on the individual level. They don't accept the rule of the religions organizations in any way. For instance God; they don't believe in God in the way the historical religions tell them. 65% of the Swedish say that they believe in God, "but in the way we want." For instance one of my staff in the social organization I manage is a religions guy, but every morning when he comes to work, he kisses all his female coworkers, while he has a long beard and short trousers. When I ask him how this is possible, he answers "this is a normal thing and those who don't do that, they have not understood Islam."
I did my masters on the French girls with Hijab. There are girls who wear scarf and go swimming with their boyfriends wearing lingerie and bare legs. There is a Christian teacher who fasts every Ramadan and does not eat ham. I mean the religion that is returning to Europe is about linking individuals, i.e. bringing down religion to the individual level. This comes from the sentence I have written in my book: "Modernity has freed its children in the streets." Modernity toppled the family, social classes, conflict and labor and shuffled religion and threw it away in a way that in the late 18th century and early 19th century, people were talking about end of religion. When this huge gap is created for the modernity's street children, three things will replace this: becoming a supporter of Barcelona and Real Madrid, which becomes a strong belief that forces us towards a number of practices. Drug is the second thing, and third one is religion. Going back to religion on the individual level as we use religion to give a meaning to our lives. This is the religion that the Europeans return to. Whenever in the Arabic and Islamic societies we can escape from the rule of the extremist historical religious institutions and individualize religion and make it the source of meaning for our lives, we will then achieve freedom.