Iraqi group fears revival of ‘devil-worship’ tag

BAGHDAD, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Fresh accusations that an ancient Iraqi sect worships the devil raises concerns about the future of religious minorities in the new Islamist-dominated Iraq, a presidential adviser said on Thursday.

Mirza Dinnayi, President Jalal Talabani’s adviser for Yazidi affairs, said that despite efforts to ensure that minorities are protected in a new constitution being drafted in Baghdad, whisperings about the nature of the Yazidi faith had raised fears of violence against the community.

“As a liberal I find the future of Iraq miserable and for minorities like the Yazidis it will be even more difficult,” said Dinnayi.

“I don’t know if this new constitution will even be put into practice. Minorities have a great problem now,” he added, speaking from Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has almost entirely been spared the sectarian violence tearing at Iraq.

Politicians in Baghdad are putting together a permanent constitution they hope will create a political system that allows Iraq’s main ethnic and religious groups to live together after decades of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party rule.

But minorities such as the esoteric pre-Islamic Kurdish sect fear they will be victims of the zealotry gripping the country.

Yazidis say they have often faced the charge because the chief angel they venerate as a manifestation of God is often identified as the fallen angel Satan in biblical terminology. They also believe God created good and evil in the world.

Their concerns were underlined last week when one of the three Yazidis in parliament tried to challenge the widespread perception among Islamists that they are friends of Satan.

He spoke of accusing looks he said were directed at Yazidis whenever ministers began speeches with Koranic verses cursing the devil.

But the press, including in Mosul where most Yazidis live, took the comment as a plea not to offend Yazidi veneration for their supposed idol. “They worship Lucifer and consider him head of the angels,” al-Ittijah al-Akhar newspaper said this week.

Yazidi leaders, who say there have been a number of attacks on them since the 2003 U.S. invasion, say the incident bodes ill for the future in a country meant to be guided by democracy.

“While we are not devil worshippers, one has to take into account that people deride us as such,” MP Adel Nasser said.

Yazidis say they suffered army massacres in their north Iraq villages during the secular rule of Saddam Hussein.

Now Sunni Islamist insurgents are strong in the Mosul region where most of the half a million Yazidis live.

Leading Christian Yonadem Kanna said he had personally written into the constitution a section that ensured freedoms for groups like Yazidis not considered “people of the book”, a Koranic term referring to the main monotheistic religions.

“I wrote this by my own hand and they (Islamists) accepted that,” he said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, via, UK
Aug. 18, 2005
Andrew Hammond

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday August 19, 2005.
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