Followers of Zoroastrian religion celebrate opening of the first official temple in Sulaimani in September 2016.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Zoroastrian representation in the Kurdistan Region has filed a legal complaint against a Kurdish Islamic preacher whom they claim has issued a decree that all converts to the pre-Islamic faith must be killed if they did not repent within days.
“We filed a lawsuit against Mala Hasib, the [Islamic] preacher at Mala Rasul mosque, before the public prosecutor’s office today,” said Awat Hussamaddin Tayib, the representative of the Zoroastrians at the Kurdistan Region’s ministry of religious affairs, “He has given a three-day deadline to all the Zoroastrians,” she claimed.
“He says ‘if they [the Zoroastrians] do not return to Islam’, which he described as the religion of our ancestors, while our ancestral religion is Zoroastrianism [then] they have to be killed as he issued against all the Zoroastrians,” Tayib explained.
Mala Hasib, the Islamic preacher in question, made the remarks in an interview with the BBC Persian late last month when asked about the fact that some Kurdish youths are converting to either Zoroastrianism or Christianity from Islam, in light of the ongoing war against ISIS.
Hasib told the program that while ISIS is practicing some elements of Islam, it does not represent the religion because it lacks wisdom, and that they believe in the use of force for every matter.
“Daesh does not have wisdom in its actions. This is very dangerous and harmful for Islam,” he said.
Then he was asked about issue of converting to other religions.
“Tens and hundreds of Kurdish Muslims have [converted] to Zoroastrianism or Christianity. What do you think in this respect?” the BBC journalist asked Hasib.
“Under an Islamic authority, the verdict is that they would be given three days to reconsider,” Hasib said, “if they repented and abandoned the new religion, it is ok. But if they did not return from Zoroastrianism, or any religion other than Islam, they are apostates and have to be killed. Their punishment is death penalty.“
The Kurdish region has passed a law to protect the rights of the different ethnic and religious groups in 2015, including Zoroastrianism, under which followers of the religion have the right to declare their religion, practice the rituals, and found their places of worship.
“That is why we have been practicing our rituals ever since. We have not posed a threat against anyone,” Tayyib said in reference to the law passed by the Kurdish parliament.
The law does not address the issue of converting from one religion to another, as claimed by Tayyib in a press conference in Sulaimani after she and several others filed the complaint.
However, there are no reported cases of anyone being tried in Kurdish courts for changing their religion.
Tayyib told Rudaw English that the complaint comes after Hasib made the remarks on BBC Persian, but she also claimed that he had made similar remarks elsewhere, including at the mosque he is preaching at, and a Kurdish newspaper.
Rudaw English contacted Hasib to comment. He said he will not talk to the media for now, as he is preparing to “respond with evidence” to the claims made against him. He denied meanwhile having talked to the Kurdish media on this regard, as claimed by Tayyib.
Tayyib said that Hasib’s remarks were against tolerance and coexistence in Kurdistan, and claimed that the Kurdish ministry of religious affairs “have been saddened” with such remarks from the Islamic preacher.
She called for him to be removed from preaching in the mosque, issue an apology, and to be punished.
She claimed that Hasib is a member of the Islamic League (Komal), a claim that Rudaw was not immediately able to verify.
She said Komal, in particular the head of the human rights committee Soran Omar, who is from Komal, must come out and condemn Hasib’s remarks publicly if they want to show that they are against such a position as that taken by Hasib.
Omar has not issued any explanation on the claims: whether or not Hasib is a member of the party, that he made remarks against the laws, or whether or not the party upholds or condemns Hasib’s stance.
Zoroastrianism is an ancient pre-Islamic religion with many people still practicing the faith in Iran and India.
The Zoroastrians in the Kurdistan Region opened their first official temple last September, hoping that it will provide the right environment to “reintroduce” Kurds to their ancestral religion, Tayyib told Rudaw English then.
She said then that she was fearful that the ongoing war against ISIS may create an environment of fear for her fellow believers.
Tayyib, who was living in Europe until four years ago, is the representative of the Zoroastrians at the Kurdistan Region’s ministry of religious affairs. She assumed the position after Zoroastrians received official recognition in 2015.
Komal party and Soran Omar could not be reached for comments.