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Kurdish Author Threatened

Islamic extremists in Iraqi Kurdistan have threatened Marywan Halabjayee with death for writing a book they say is critical of the status of women under Islam. The book, entitled “Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam,” was published in Iraqi Kurdistan in November 2005.

In a telephone interview with the Voice of America, Marywan Halabjayee said he wants to foster a frank discussion of Islamic teachings concerning women:

“I am trying to say that women in all religions, certainly in Islam, have been denied their natural rights. I am doing a scientific content analysis of the Koran using particular verses and particular hadith [traditions related to the Prophet Mohammad] which show this.”

The Islamic League of Kurdistan reacted to the book by issuing a fatwa against its author. “The mullahs and scholars said [that] if I go to them and apologize, they will give me eighty lashes and then refer me to the fatwa committee to decide if I am to be beheaded. They might forgive me, they might not,” said Mr. Halabjayee. He says that he is now in hiding. Imad Ahmad is the deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government in Sulaymaniyah:

“A number of clerical associations and religious persons have registered a legal case against him for his writings and they consider his work worse [more offensive] than [Indian born British author] Salman Rushdie. And this is something that the courts will have to decide.”

Rebwar Fatah is the director of the online newspaper He says the right of Mr. Halabjayee and other Iraqi Kurds to freedom of expression should be respected:

“Marywan Halabjayee has every right to express his own opinions, no matter what they are, without any fear of persecution. Societies that deprive their intellectuals from expressing themselves freely cannot move forward.”

“It is time," he said, "for this generation of Kurds to pursue the same democratic concepts that have brought prosperity to many other societies.”

The free expression of ideas is a fundamental human right. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. “must always stand in solidarity with courageous men and women across the globe who live in fear yet dream of freedom.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.