Interview with Kurdish Human Rights activist Mariwan Halabjaee.
The Salman Rushdie of Iraqi Kurdistan
The “blasphemous” book Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam is about how Islam and Sharia law are allegedly used to oppress Muslim women. “I wanted to prove how oppressed women are in Islam and that they have no rights,” said Mr. Halabjaee.
“My book is based on Islamic sources such as the Holly Quran, Muslim and Bukhari books and many more.”
Mr. Halabjaee was forced to flee to Norway from Iraqi Kurdistan because the Islamic League of Kurdistan issued a “conditional” fatwa to kill him if he did not repent and apologize for writing his book. The “conditional” nature of the fatal fatwa was uncertain at best. Mr. Halabjaee reported, “the mullahs and scholars said if I go to them and apologize they will give me 80 lashes and then refer me to the fatwa committee to decide if I am to be beheaded. They might forgive me, they might not.”
Mr. Halabjaee received telephone calls saying, “Now, in 10 years or 15 years, we will kill you.” Another time, Mr. Halabjaee reported, “the Islamists said once from the radio, if they found out where I was, they would blow themselves up with me.” The worst thing was realizing his wife and children were in danger. “With that book I wanted to defend women but the first thing I did was hurt my wife.” As a result, Mr. Halabjaee went into hiding with his pregnant wife and three children.
Mr. Halabjaee fled Iraqi Kurdistan after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) refused to offer him any protection or to arrest those who threatened his life. “The Kurdish authorities have not provided any protection from threats and fatwas,” said Mr. Halabjaee, “any moment I am expecting a bullet or a hand grenade to be thrown into where I live.”
In response to the Halabjaee affair, the KRG Minister of Religious Issues, Dr. Mohammad Gaznayi, told protestors that according to the law of Iraqi Kurdistan, “defamation” or “criticizing” religion or religious figures is a crime and its punishment is severe. “We will give those who attack our prophets a sentence so that they can be a lesson for everyone,” said Dr. Gaznayi. [Dr. Gaznayi is the same KRG Minister of Religious Issues who said, “I consider that those who turn to Christianity pose a threat to society.”] Mr. Halabjaee was in possession of a warrant for his arrest issued by the Suleimaniya police department when he fled Iraqi Kurdistan.
In August 2006, Mr. Halabjaee was granted political asylum in Norway.
In December 2007, Mr. Halabjaee was convicted in absentia in Iraqi Kurdistan for the crime of blasphemy. A court in Halabja sentenced Mr. Halabjaee to prison for writing that the prophet Mohammed had 19 wives, married a 9-year-old when he was 54 years old, and committed murder and rape. Mr. Halabjaee remains in hiding in Norway. The sentence states that he will be arrested upon his return to Iraqi Kurdistan.
In September 2008, Mullah Krekar threatened to kill Mr. Halabjaee in an audio file published on the Kurdish website Renesans.nu. “I swear that we will not live if you live. Either you go before us, or we go before you,” said Krekar. Mullah Krekar was the original leader of the Islamist terrorist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq. Mullah Krekar compared Mr. Halabjaee with, among others, Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ironically, Mullah Krekar, like Mr. Halabjaee, currently resides in Norway as a refugee. Since February 2003, Mullah Krekar has had an expulsion order against him in Norway. The order has been suspended, however, pending Iraqi government guarantees that Mullah Krekar will not face torture or execution.
In February 2012, Mullah Krekar confirmed in Oslo City Court that he had issued a twenty page fatwa against Mr. Halabjaee. The fatwa was sent to several hundred Islamic scholars around the world. While Mullah Krekar said he thought he might be able to “guarantee the safety” of Mr. Halabjaee, Mullah Krekar confirmed that his fatwa “implies” that it is “permissible” to kill Mr. Halabjaee in Oslo or anywhere else. Mullah Krekar compared Mr. Halabjaee to Theo van Gogh, the film director who was killed by an Islamist in the Netherlands in 2004.
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