PUK politician Mala Bakhtiar speaks at a conference on ‘Religion for the 'Individual and Democracy for Everyone’ in Sulaimani, Kurdistan Region, on January 17, 2019. Photo: Rudaw TV.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The head of the executive body of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo says that Islam has to be saved from Salafism to pave the road for renewal in Islam, while preserving the sanctities.
In the annual conference of the ‘dabran’ (breakaway) platform, established by Mala Bakhtiar himself and jointly held with the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'homme titled ‘Religion for the 'Individual and Democracy for Everyone,’ the influential Kurdish politician said that Islam needed to be saved from Salafism for the sake of renewal.
“As long as Salafism reigns over religion, religion can never make itself compatible with change. If religion is saved from Salafism, without a doubt, religion can come forward with all changes and give comfort to the soul of the human,” Bakhtiar said in a speech in the opening of the conference in Sulaimani on Thursday.
While encouraging renewal, Bakhtiar added that they have “unlimited” respect for all religions, sects, and that beliefs are free for all. “God, Quran, the Prophet and the prophets of other religions are red lines,” Bakhtiar asserted.
The figures of the Enlightenment weren’t “atheists,” he argued, claiming they respected religion. “The difference between the [figures] of enlightenment and dogmatic religious individuals is that they have a new interpretation for religion,” added Bakhtiar.
Recent reading and research of religious texts can be important for democracy, individual and female freedom to save religion from fundamentalism, he argued.
The PUK politician denied that his stance, which he says sets a precedent in the Middle East and Kurdistan, is anti-religion because claims of him being so propaganda that has been dwindling.
Bakhtiar’s stance comes at the heels of the defeat of ISIS, a Salafist jihadi organization that has wreaked havoc in the Middle East with the ultimate goal of the establishment of a “caliphate.”
More than 500 Kurdish youth are believed to have joined ISIS.
Increasingly moderate voices espouse the need to work on a message of peaceful co-existence in Kurdistan that has been relatively safe from extremism and fundamentalism.
Officials publicly argue that ISIS may be nearing its defeat militarily, but ideologically there is still a difficult battle ahead.
Some Muslims and scholars argue that the Middle East needs a renaissance and Islam needs a Christian-like reformation to prevent the rise of extremist groups. They are often disregarded, ostracized, and labeled as heretics.