July 2, 2006


Moderate Islamists Found (Michael Totten, 7/01/06, Middle East Journal)

When I went to the Middle East for a six-month extended visit I wanted to see if I could find a genuinely moderate Islamist political party, one that not only practices democracy but also believes in it. [...]

The Kurdistan Islamic Union...does seem to be genuinely moderate. Its leaders appear to have more in common with conservative Christian Democrats in Europe than with any terrorist organization or Middle Eastern religious dictatorship.

I met with Ali Muhammad, Director of the Suleimaniya bureau of the KIU, Iraqi Kurdistan’s third largest (and growing) political party, in his office. He provided his own in-house translator, a plump woman in a dark brown abaya. My own translator, because he was a stranger, was not to be trusted.

Ali looked to be in his sixties. He wore a trimmed beard, glasses, and a distinctly unfashionable Western suit and tie. He greeted me warmly in English. I greeted him and thanked him in Kurdish. Then we spoke to each other through our translator.

"How do you feel about the U.S. occupation of Iraq?" I said.

“We blame Saddam for the occupation," he said. "Life is much better here now. But of course no one wants his country to be occupied.”

"Do you think the U.S. soldiers should leave now?" I said. "Or would it be better if they waited until later?"

“It is better to wait until the Iraqi army is strong and the country is calm," he said.

"What do you think of the West in general?" I said.

“The West is a successful civilization," he said. "But we think it is too materialistic and technological. If the Islamic East united with the civilized West, all of humanity would benefit.”

Isn’t materialism a problem in the Middle East, too? Saddam’s palaces, the skyscrapers and malls in Dubai...

“When I talked about materialism, I did not mean wealth," he said. "I mean that humans need both the material and spiritual sides of existence. Each civilization has a material side and a soul side. Western people are missing parts of the soul side. But the soul side in the West isn’t zero. Human rights are much more respected there than here." His translator spoke slowly and gave me time to write everything down. “Islam is the medium between socialism and capitalism. In socialism everything is soulless. In capitalism there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. In Islam we can possess things, but not with such a huge distance between the rich and the poor.”

Given the winning streak they've been on since 1991, it's not surprising that the Kurds are among the most optimistic Muslims in the Middle East and the most friendly to the US.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 2, 2006 10:16 AM

--. If the Islamic East united with the civilized West, all of humanity would benefit.--

Uh, huh.

More like, OH OH.

Binny's family seems to be very rich.

He's speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Posted by: Sandy P at July 2, 2006 4:29 PM

There's no "if" about it.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 4:37 PM

Sandy, binny = a fish?

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 5:32 PM
« A BIG BIFF: | Main | HAD ENOUGH? (via Raoul Ortega): »