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WikiLeaks: 2006-08-22: 06KIRKUK143: KRG Minister of Religious Affairs on Monitoring Mosques, Checking Foreign Influences

by WikiLeaks. 06KIRKUK143: August 22, 2006.

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 06:05 PM UT


Viewing cable 06KIRKUK143, C) KRG MINISTER OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS ON MONITORING MOSQUES,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIRKUK143 2006-08-22 07:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL REO Kirkuk
VZCZCXRO6999
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL
DE RUEHKUK #0143/01 2340703
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 220703Z AUG 06
FM REO KIRKUK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0717
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0679
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHKUK/REO KIRKUK 0745
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KIRKUK 000143 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
BAGHDAD FOR POL, POLMIL, NCT, IRMO 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  8/21/2016 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINR PINS PNAT PREF PREL PTER KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: (C) KRG MINISTER OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS ON MONITORING MOSQUES, CHECKING FOREIGN INFLUENCES 
 
KIRKUK 00000143  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Jim Bigus, PRT Leader, POL, Department of State. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
 
 
1.      (C) INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY:  Minister of Awqaf and 
Religious Affairs (MARA) for the Kurdistan Regional Government 
(KRG), Mohammad Ahamd Saeed Shakaly, said on August 8 that his 
ministry monitored more than 3000 mosques in the Kurdistan 
region and that checking sermons was a matter of "public 
security" for the KRG areas.  He claimed MARA had a system to 
legally prosecute imams who incited violence and that no mosques 
could be built or operated without MARA authorization. He said 
MARA was trying to limit the influence of foreign Islamic groups 
in the area that had increased between 2003 and 2005. MARA 
relations with their Baghdad counterparts were with the Sunni 
department mostly, which was separate from the Shia department. 
Shakaly said MARA wanted to form a committee for religious 
affairs composed of non-Islamic religious minorities to monitor 
the relation between Islam and other religions, and that his 
ministry would head the committee.  END INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY. 
 
(C) 3000 MOSQUES MONITORED - NO BARZANI CRITICISM ALLOWED 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
2. (C) Shakaly claimed his ministry currently monitored about 
3000 mosques but that this figure was increasing.  Several 
members of his staff had family members who had been victims of 
suicide bombers, he said, and this was a sensitive issue.   He 
said their priorities were to contribute to regional stability 
and the peace of the KRG, and to this end, he claimed MARA would 
not permit the mosque to become a shelter for terrorists. 
Mosque sermons, Shakaly said, must not incite violence or call 
for jihad.  He claimed outside of these issues mosques could 
practice as they wish, but that otherwise they would be 
prosecuted through the law.  He added as an afterthought MARA 
also did not permit criticism of the Barzanis. 
 
(C) CHECKING SERMONS A "PUBLIC SECURITY ISSUE" 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
3.  (C) Shakaly said some imams advocated stoning cars that had 
women drivers, which could cause an accident.  He claimed this 
made cracking down on such sermons a "public security issue" and 
in such cases MARA must take away their permission to speak.  He 
said MARA actively was trying to open dialogue with Islamic 
extremists to see what they want and to bring them to the table 
to convince them to abandon violence.  Shakaly cited the Hajj 
Ibrahim Mosque on the main road to Qoya in Erbil as a main 
culprit in disseminating extremist sermons.  MARA only had 
authority in areas falling under KRG administration, he claimed; 
other regions, such as Kirkuk, fell under Baghdad's supervision. 
 
(C) "WE HAVE WAYS" TO SILENCE UNWANTED SERMONS 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
4.  (C) Shakaly said the process of monitoring sermons was 
facilitated by the fact that most of the 10,000 to 11,000 MARA 
staff also worked as mosque employees, but that there was in 
addition "always street talk" to alert them of dangerous 
rhetoric.  Shakaly claimed the "democratic ways of the west 
sometimes can't be implemented in Kurdistan" due to inherent 
cultural differences.  He said the political impact of Islam had 
not yet arrived in the Kurdish areas due to the influences of 
Naqshbandi and Qadiri Sufism, which were peaceful movements and 
heavily influenced the region.  However, because of their 
possible connections with extremists, Shakaly claimed, constant 
vigilance was necessary and MARA had to use its own methods to 
solve the problem, because the ministry did not want Kurdistan 
"to become like other Islamic countries."  As an example, he 
claimed an imam recently compared Kurdistan's education and 
government systems to "pharaoh" and MARA responded by inviting 
him to their offices to discuss this, and warned him to avoid 
such rhetoric or he would have his permit to speak taken away 
and would be judicially prosecuted by the government.  Shakaly 
said mosques could no longer be built without MARA approval and 
that imams were not permitted to preach without a license from 
MARA.  He claimed MARA recently moved two colleges, one for 
sharia education and the other for sermon training, from the 
more conservative and remote areas of Dahuk to Salahadin 
University in Erbil, where MARA could monitor and instruct imams 
on how to cleanse their sermons of extremist rhetoric.  He added 
mullahs were using old books and references and that MARA was 
trying to reform this curriculum. 
 
(C) FORMING MINORITY COMMITTEE FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
5. (C) One of MARA's priorities, Shakaly claimed, would be to 
 
KIRKUK 00000143  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
monitor the relations between Islam and other religions in the 
Kurdistan regions of Iraq.  Formerly called the Ministry of 
Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Shakaly claimed the change in title 
indicated this shift in concern for non-Islamic religious 
communities.  He said a specific law was under consideration to 
form a "high committee for religious affairs" and that his 
ministry would soon submit this bill to the KRG Council of 
Ministers and the Kurdistan National Assembly for approval.  He 
said the law would create a committee of solely non-Islamic 
minority communities, such as Yezidis and Assyrians, to make 
sure "anything done for the Muslims also gets done for the other 
communities."  If MARA builds a mosque for the Muslims, Yezidis 
would have a right to a temple, the Christians to a church, he 
claimed.  Shakaly said someone from his office would head the 
committee. 
 
(C) CHECKING FOREIGN INFLUENCES 
-------------------------------- 
 
6.   (C) A limited KRG budget had permitted foreign groups, 
primarily from Gulf States, to found mosques and finance groups 
without oversight, Shakaly claimed.  These foreign groups, he 
said, focused on high profile areas to gain the maximum 
exposure.  He claimed between 2003 and 2005 an Islamic college 
in Saudi Arabia built or purchased 430 mosques in the Kurdistan 
region, mostly on the main paved roads.  He asserted that in 
some villages with over 100 families they did not build, but in 
some with only 3 families they built a mosque because of its 
strategic location.  Shakaly claimed now any mosque construction 
had to be channeled through MARA according to law.   These 
groups had come under the face of Islam, he said, but had a 
hidden goal to assist terrorists.  Since they already had a 
large number of mosques, he claimed, there was no need for more; 
they should focus on building schools and hospitals. Many of 
these 430 mosques were still open, Shakaly claimed, but were now 
funded and maintained by MARA, which had "gradually dried up" 
funding for suspected mosques.  He cited the Salaf Mosque and 
the Khalija Kubra Mosque as examples. Shakaly claimed any new 
mosques built by foreign donors must have their organization 
approved, although MARA did not keep track of funding or banking 
sources. 
 
(C) RELATIONS WITH BAGHDAD MOSTLY WITH SUNNIS 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
7. (C) Shakaly claimed MARA's counterparts in Baghdad were 
divided between Sunni and Shia departments, and that MARA had a 
"very thin" relation with the Shia department.  He said, for 
instance, that MARA had helped in coordinating with Baghdad on 
the Hajj to Mecca, and that the KRG had a representative on the 
Committee for the Hajj in Baghdad to facilitate visas, 
passports, and logistics.  However, he said, as this represented 
pilgrims from the mostly Sunni Kurdistan region, MARA's contact 
primarily was with the Sunni branch of the federal ministry. 
Shakaly claimed that even though the relatively small Shia 
Kurdish population had Husayniyah, not mosques, and were 
financially independent from the KRG endowments system, the 
Husayniyah must still register with MARA. 
 
(C) BIOGRAPHIC NOTES 
-------------------------------- 
 
8. (C)  Mohammad Ahmad Saeed Shakaly:  Current KRG Minister of 
Awqaf and Religious Affairs; has worked in politics since 1963 
when he became a Peshmerga; lived in Kirkuk most of his life and 
owns a farm there; claims to speak Turkoman and Arabic fluently; 
was targeted by terrorists while attending a mosque; his senior 
advisor is Othman al-Mufti. 
 
(U) COMMENT 
----------- 
 
9. (C) Post had heard concerns voiced from representatives of 
Islamic groups that the KRG's crackdown on these parties and 
mosques is not eliminating extremists but rather driving them 
underground.  If these claims are true, efforts by the KRG to 
check the influence of radical Islam could contribute to future, 
more lethal threats to political stability in the Kurdish 
regions, particularly if these parties are enjoying growing 
popular support.  Based on post's meetings with Assyrian 
leaders, a level of distrust exists regarding the KRG's plans 
for the future of non-Muslim minority communities in the 
Kurdistan region.  While MARA's proposed "high committee for 
religious affairs" could serve to ameliorate this distrust, it 
could also serve as another mechanism for MARA to extend its 
monitoring of religious activities to non-Islamic communities. 
Shakaly's comment that certain Islamic groups had "no need for 
more" mosques and thus would not receive funding to build more 
could logically apply to non-Muslim communities on the grounds 
 
KIRKUK 00000143  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
that MARA had ceased to build new mosques, so it would not be 
fair to approve new temples or churches. 
JBIGUS

 



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