Friday 17 October 2014

Ethnicity and Religion: Navid Kermani's visit to Iraq

The German-Iranian academic, writer and intellectual Navid Kermani spent a week traveling in war-torn Iraq. Here are some excerpts from his interview with the Muslim world news website Qantara about his findings. It paints a depressing picture of what once was a cosmopolitan country.

Relations [among Iraqis] are increasingly characterised by ethnicity. The old multicultural Baghdad – up until the 1940s, the Jews represented the largest and leading intellectual population group in the city – this multicultural Baghdad no longer exists. Now, people rely on the other members of their denominational group. Solidarity prevails within the group; people help each other. On the other hand, people are less likely to help members of other denominations. The sense of togetherness has dwindled to almost nothing.
Regarding the role of religion, in this instance Islam, Kermani stresses the prominent role played by people from 'secular' backgrounds (by which he means scientists and professionals), including members of the former Baathist regime, who use and manipulate religion for their own political objectives and who are willing to associate with organisations such as ISIS for these purposes.
One should take the religious fa├žade seriously. Many European jihadis, many jihadis active on the ground and Wahhabism, which has contributed to the fact that this ideology was able to spread: all of that is religious; it should be taken seriously. It's a religious thought process. However, this process is turning against its own tradition. It is – and this is the protestant element involved – doing away with tradition in order to return to the basic scripture. It is, therefore, an anti-traditional movement.
To read the whole interview, click here.

For more on Navid Kermani and his work, visit  his website.

Links to some of his publications can be found by clicking on the widget below.