Dr Abdul Latif who received a minor injury from a hand grenade on June 16, 2017 is seen receiving visitors in his house next to the Bahasht mosque. Photo: Rudaw/Sartip Othman
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The controversial Islamic preacher who was injured in a grenade attack Friday in his mosque in Sulaimani has said that a member of his congregation was asking him about his views on the forthcoming Kurdish referendum on independence when the attack happened.
He voiced his “100 percent” support for the referendum on the condition that it will lead to full independence, calling those who do not support the September 25 vote not “genuine Kurds.”
Dr Abdul Latif, a well-known Salafi figure, preaches at Bahasht mosque in Sulaimani and also owns the satellite channel Amozhgari, or Preaching, that teaches the Salafi version of Sunni Islam.
The motive for the attack on the mosque is not known at this time.
The preacher who received a minor injury to his right leg from the grenade said that the motive behind the attack could well be because of his anti-ISIS stance as he does not regard what the extremist group is doing as “Islam.”
The preacher claimed that he has been receiving threats from the ISIS group via its social media channels.
He also said people like him who dare to speak “the truth” despite the difficulties become a target for such attacks.
He said that one such case is his stance in favor of the Kurdish people in their quest for independence.
“I look at the referendum as it is. Not in the political way where they exchange accusations, I have no business [with this aspect of it],” Latif told Rudaw hours after the attack, repeating his long-held view that he does not want to get involved in political issues.
“But as for the issue itself, which is the issue of referendum, that referendum to be held so that the Kurdish nation would be independent, I am with it 100 percent... with no regard to who is calling off the referendum.”
“The question is as a Kurd: do we want to be independent and try to achieve it? Anyone who does not like it and does not make efforts, it is obvious then that they are not genuine Kurds,” the preacher continued.
The Kurdish security or Asayesh in Sulaimani stated that a hand grenade was thrown into the courtyard of Bahasht mosque on Friday night, lightly injuring three people. Later health and police sources told Rudaw that five people were injured with wounds were described as minor.
The Asayesh said that they have started their investigation into the incident and will inform the public "after we find a lead."
The hand grenade was thrown when Latif, the controversial preacher, was leaving the mosque towards his house which is located next to the mosque, Latif told Rudaw after he received treatment in his house for injuries he sustained from the attack.
He soon returned to the mosque for his Ramadan prayers with members of his congregate, in a defiant message.
Latif told Rudaw that it may have to do with his anti-ISIS stance.
"When you defend your people, the Peshmerga, and [make remarks] against terrorists, surely you will pay the price."
He appears to have been the target of the attack as the grenade was thrown directly at the Islamic preacher.
"I do not have any personal problems myself, thanks to God," Latif told reporters from within his mosque after the attack. "But we always hear ISIS threats, and just yesterday I was talking about ISIS on one of the media outlets. I think this could be the reason."
He said he remains committed to his public stance that what ISIS is doing is not "Islam," but rather aimed at conveying a bad image of the religion.
He also said that about three years ago he asked the security forces in Sulaimani to provide security for his mosque and an Islamic channel he owns, but the security forces have not done so.
The attacker, believed to be a young man wearing black clothes and armed with a pistol was caught on camera. A car was also parked near the mosque to pick up the assailant.
As some people tried to chase him, the attacker opened fire.
Kurdistan's ministry of religious affairs described the incident as "sabotage attack" calling on the authorities to do their utmost to bring the assailant to justice.
Latif is a controversial and well-known Salafi figure in Kurdistan. In 2014, he condemned ISIS attacks on Christians and Yezidis and called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "an extremist man who has no fear of God."
He described ISIS as the product of "political Islam" and said that militants killed in battle are not martyrs.
He was arrested last year in connection with an alleged illegal marriage.