Thursday, 17 April 2008, 01:28 GMT
Society, religion and violence
By By Saro Qadir
The Kurdish Globe


In this paper, I tried to make a historical interpretation of the experience of violence in the history of the Islamic world's states. I have addressed the stage of colonialism and its intellectual effects on the East. I have tried to see the positive and negative aspects of colonialism without any revolutionary thought in its conventional meaning, i.e., objectively. In the same way, I addressed the problem between Imperialism and Socialism, and then I moved to the national liberation movements.

Regarding the present time and the effect of globalization on the future of our region, and particularly Kurdistan, I have discussed the concern that exists of globalization. Undoubtedly, those issues are broader than what I have discussed in this paper with this speed. Therefore, I hope that I can continue with them in the near future. Until then, I will be waiting for the comments and discussions of those who read this paper deeper than I do.

I have lived with these issues along the past 16 years, during the liberation stage, and interacted with the opinions in my intellectual and journalistic carriers; therefore, it is not impossible that signs of dialogue and intellectual struggle be apparent in my writing. This very side of it was my intention.

In the second edition, I have added an introduction about the way of interpreting the role of religion in the Islamic world. This is in addition to a talk with one of the Kurdistan Islamic Movement leaders in the year 2000 at their request, and it was given certain weight in the media organizations at that time.
Saro Qadir July 2007

Part I

How do we understand religion?

In this part, I try to define religion in a scientific way and on the basis of the beliefs of the renowned and recognized sociologists, and show it as a significant and deep-rooted system inside the Kurdistan society, which is an Eastern and Islamic society. In the same way, I go one step backward and study the process of emergence of religion in the history of humanity and revisit it as a historical, social phenomenon. In this, I want to know what other situations in the history have resulted in the existing religious beliefs? And from that to be able to describe the mechanism of religion's effect on the social changes and scrutinize the role of religion in the emergence of confronting the civilized society.

What I have said until now is a generalization through which one can look at the Islamic world as a whole, though my effort is to look for the characteristics of Kurdistan and find something specific in the religious system, if there is one, then to analyze it and know whether it supports or hinders the process of the formation of civilization. As it is apparent, civilization is said to be the core of today's change inside Kurdistan's society.


What is religion?

The society of humanity is a reality in the world and has its own history. In the stages of this history all the phenomena of the society have their specific place because they are given specific roles and have specific responsibilities. In the parade of the evolution of humanity, religion, in the initial stations, came into being as a tool for understanding and analyzing the natural phenomena and self-legalizing of the basic communities.

Regarding this issue, famous sociologist Anthony Giddens thinks that "In order not to be subjective regarding religion, it is better to ask "what is religion?" (جامعةشناسى ل 496 ) He says that religion is not only worshipping one God, since some religions have more than one god. Also, it is not moral advice and order like what Moses claimed since in the old Greek religions the gods didn't have much to do with the humans. Nor was it only for the purpose of telling us how the universe has been brought into existence, since most of the religions don't even address this issue. Finally, religion is not to investigate the metaphysic beliefs and combine them with the natural phenomena. This is because some religions, like Confucianism, are trying to relate nature and its phenomena. Thus, what is religion? He says: "All the religions are number of signs and symbols, and they create respect and fear and have close relation with conventions that are respected by the religious people." (same source)

William James, on the other hand, says in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience: "What I understand from religion in this study is some feelings and knowledge that some people acquire as a result of isolation and make them behave in specific ways. This feeling and knowledge is related to a relation that the person creates between him/herself and what (s)he thinks is god." (دين الانسان/ فراس السواح، ل 22). Thus, it could be understood from this speech of James that religion is located inside the society's relation.

From another angle of this issue, the well-known thinker and the second among the sociologist thinkers, Herbert Spencer, says: "Despite their differences, all the religions agree that the universe is a secret that needs to be revealed and analyzed." (same source)

In analyzing the core of religion, all the thinkers have tried to do something about it, including the German Max Muller, who says: "Religion is an effort toward an unimaginable imagination, is an inseparable speech; it is a knot that stays forever." (same source) On the same line, Rafael, in his book An Introduction on the History of Religion, says: "Religion is the dependence of human's life to a feeling that thinks that it ties human's reason to the reason of the ruler of the universe, and this gives him some kind of self-assurance." (same source, p. 24)

In the same stream of thinking, which looks rather like stare, a believer and religious researcher writes: "Religion is the feeling of some kind of eternity and the test of this eternity. By this eternity, I mean unity and complimentarily of our world. This is the dream of individual that pushes the belief in God toward to ends; one is difference and similarity, and the other is pushing it toward a kind of an unseen worship, called "the harmony of existence." (same source) Around the same issue, Edward Tailor (1832-1917), the great anthropologist, reinforces in his book Primitive Culture: "Our first objective in methodological study of the primitive societies' religion is to be able to find a simple definition for it. Emphasizing on believing in a higher existence excludes the primitive beliefs from the boundary of religion because such a belief is an advanced stage of religious life. Therefore, it is useful to set a basic border for the definition of religion, which is standing on the border of believing in a spiritual being." (same source)

Thus, it is from Tailor where the sociological view of religion starts and its function is organizing and justifying the principles and conventions of any society.

Another British thinker, James Frazer (1854-1941) moved more toward social life in defining religion. He says: "Writing a definition for religion such that all opposing groups agree with it is impossible. Hence, a researcher can only express his/her meaning of religion in detail, then use this definition like a word in those books that (s)he writes. And from this we understand that religion is a self-satisfying, liberating action of human being from a power above him/herself, which (s)he thinks is ruling the nature and humans. This action consists of two categories. One is theoretical and the other is applying it empirically. (same source, p. 25)