Islam’s ebbing popularity in Middle-East Muslims- Brief Account of Resurgent Kurdish Zoroastrianism, Saudi’s Quest for Moderate Islam and Detest for Orthodox Islam among Persian Muslims
On September 2016, northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region; home of ethnic Kurds have witnessed unprecedented and historic function of inauguration of grand Zoroastrian Temple at Erbil. Local people refer to this religion as Zardashti, followers of Zarathushtra. It was return of the faith in its original place after thousand years. The founder of Zoroastrian faith was Zarathustra, who was ethnic Kurd.
Recent announcement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to drive back Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam has stunned Islamic world, especially people of Saudi Arabia. Earlier Crown Prince had eased up restrictions on women by allowing them to drive vehicles and declared places of public entertainment as gender neutral. It was cultural shock to people of Gulf Countries which are staunch Muslims under tremendous influence of radical Wahhabi Islam which believes in gender apartheid.
Since last few days Iran is witnessing unprecedented wave of anti-government street protests, probably bigger and bloodier than 2009 protest against re-election of radical president Ahmadinejad. Current protests though triggered to vent out frustration against economic slowdown; the protesters are hurling abuses at Iran’s supreme leader Al Khamenei and tearing down billboards with his photo. Iranians openly regretting 1979 Islamic Revolution on social media and protest rallies.
Whatever happening in Kurdistan, Saudi and Iran shows decisive trend indicating disenchantment of followers of Islam towards world’s largest religion.
But why, let’s have a look at few cases in Middle East where people are either deserting Islam or reinterpreting it by liberating its womanhood from clutches of its anti-feminist stringent code of conduct.
Resurgent Kurdish Zoroastrianism
On September 2016, Erbil town of Northern Iraq, which is capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, witnessed historic moment of inauguration of grand Zoroastrian Temple. Before advent of Islam, Zoroastrian faith was dominant religion in the region but Alexander’s military campaign and Islamic invasion of the region has converted its followers. Later Persia which was Zoroastrian nation also crumbled and lost its adherents to Islam. Few thousand Zoroastrian followers migrated to India with their divine fire- as they were known as Fire Worshippers and Indian rulers of West Coast offered them asylum with freedom to worship their ancestral faith without any restrictions.
Later Zoroastrian faith became obsolete in Persia and Kurdistan as militarily dominant Islam didn’t let them to practice Fire Worshipping and crushed and persecuted all of its followers.
Why Kurdish turning to ancestral Zoroastrian Faith?
The Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran where majority of the Kurds are residing since thousands of years are demanding separate Kurdish nation since long back. Kurds are biggest ethnic community in the world which doesn’t have their own nation.
These 4 major countries where Kurds are living since time immemorial have been facing Kurdish independence movements, armed as well as nonviolent. As a result of their unsatiating hunger for independence Kurdish population is being subjected to intense ethnic persecution.
Kurdish armed insurgent group PKK and YPG are fighting armed struggle in Turkey which has spilled the blood of thousands of people since last many decades from both sides.
But what compelled them to embrace their Zoroastrian ancestral faith?
ISIS brutalities, last straw on camel’s back?
Year 2014 was year of emergence of all new creed of Islamic militancy in Middle East called ISIL or ISIS. It was Sunni group mainly trying to establish Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Though Kurds are Muslims they are known for moderate Islam as Baloch and never were identified with radical Wahhabi or any other Jihadi sect. So, naturally Kurds stood as hard rock between ISIS and their dream for Caliphate. The Peshmerga Fighting Units were raised with active NATO and US support and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters dealt severe blow to ISIS halting their military advances more successfully than any other force on ground.
As a result of Kurdish defiance and military might against Baghdadi led ISIS, common Kurds in Iraq and Syria faced intense persecution. Many Kurd women were kept by global ISIS fighters as sex slaves along with Yazidis. Many Kurdish villages were massacred, looted and destroyed.
As ISIS brutalities intensified, Kurdish elders and youth pondering upon idea of returning back to grand old Zoroastrian Faith of Fire worship, founded by Zarathustra, the ethnic Kurd saint.
Rojava Revolution has sown the seeds of Kurdish New Era, which has enabled Kurdish womanhood to taste woman liberty. The fruits of Rojava Revolution were visible during ISIS-Peshmerga battles, in which beautiful Peshmerga Women fighters were seen fighting alongside men fighters and earning worldwide fame for their fighting skills and gallantry.
Saudi Arabian Women Liberation under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman
Last few months have seen Saudi Arabia writing new chapters in world Islamic history on daily basis. Saudi is the place where orthodox, radical Islamic Wahhabism flourished and spread all over the world with the active backing of countless Saudi Petro Dollars.
Wahhabism which is almost 200 year old has seen resurgence post 1979 Iran Islamic Revolution. As Iranian Revolution took shape in year 1979, the supreme position of Saudi Arabia in Islamic world received blow. Threat of Iranian radical version of Islam taking over supreme position among Muslim countries by toppling Saudi was smelled and as a reaction to it, Saudi Arabia adopted radical Wahhabism as their own version of orthodox Islam.
All modern cultural symbols, modes of entertainment and women participation in public life were strictly prohibited. Cultural police roamed the Saudi streets to ensure strict enforcement of Islamic Law in public life. Women were thrown back to medieval age.
But things are rapidly changing in Saudi under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman- MBS. He has opened up floodgates of reforms, especially relaxing illogical social restrictions on women. Mandatory abaya clothing covering whole women body was made voluntary. Women can open up their shops, enterprises without any make companion, and women can roam at public places without having male escort with them. Also movie theaters and places of entertainment were declared gender neutral.
All these reforms are declared and executed such a lightening pace that even Saudis are taking time to believe that all these reforms are taking place in their own country.
Why MBS Relaxing Islamic Codes?
Saudi economy is oil dependent one. Oil prices are dwindling and alternative energy sources are becoming more and more commercially viable day by day. The oil could be replaced as basic energy source anytime soon.
As Saudi is orthodox Islamic country, with irrational restrictions on women in public life hits their effective work force of women by 50%, as women can’t do productive things with enormous social restrictions in public life. In current era, Saudi can’t afford to lose half of their efficient work force due to stupid medieval laws.
Keeping in a view, changing energy dynamics, MBS eased up gender restrictions and set off the wave of tidal reforms just to diversify their economy.
So far, the whole Islamic world was gazing at Saudi as seat of two holiest Islamic religious destinations and Saudi social codes were emulated in all over Islamic World. But latest reforms in Saudi are bound to leave deep impact on world Islamic thought process and most of the Muslims would start asking questions to Islam.
As of now, no one knows where the World Islam is heading for after Saudi reforms avalanche.
Interesting developments indeed!
Iran Uprising Against Orthodox Islam
End of the year 2017 witnessed unprecedented agitations all over Iran. The social unrest was leaderless and spontaneous. It was biggest and serious in recent years. People were protesting against sagging economy. But there was sharp anti-Islam undercurrent.
Though protest erupted for economic reasons, people chanted slogans like, “Mullahs Must Get Lost…”, “Death to Mullahs”, “No Place for Islam in Persia”, “Islamic Revolution was biggest Mistake..”,
Protesters set on fire to a poster of Al Khomeini former Supreme Religious Leader of during Islamic Revolution in 1979. So far Khomeini was next to God in Iran and he was as revered as Prophet himself. His word was last and was taken as holy diktats.
But this time, anger against supreme religious figure has stunned many Islamic researchers, world media and Iran watchers.
Many social media accounts posted videos of burning down of holy book of Quran and tearing apart Islamic face veil Hijab.
Arab and Persian Divide comes to fore
During protests the young protesters were yelling, that they are Aryans and they don’t like Arab Gods, means Islam! The cultural divide between Arabs and Persians is very much sharp and reasonable. Arabs are nomads and tribal on the other hand Persians belongs to most civilized society with tradition of thousands of years of knowledge worship. Persians had developed as strong, established cultural group since many hundreds of years and Arabs were living barbaric nomad, uncertain lifestyle until discovery of crude oil in Arab world.
The sharp cultural divide between Arab and Persians has compelled Persians to distance them from whatever Arabic and they couldn’t identify themselves culturally, spiritually, linguistically or socially with Islam, which has everything genuine Arabic as authentic Islamic may it be Holy Book of Quran, attire or beliefs.
Why Islam is at receiving end in Persia?
Symbolic religious practices and illogical, medieval restrictions on social life, gender apartheid and third grade treatment to women folks are not suitable to moderate knowledge dominant Persian culture nor it suits liberties provided by today’s internet era.
Free thinking Persians with rich scientific and cultural traditions were Zoroastrians before Islamic armies trampled and crushed their society and religion. The sense of losing to Arab invaders is prevalent in Persian social psyche.
With growing socio-economic challenges, economic crisis due to Western sanctions over nuclear issues, its protracted war in Syria and Iraq and Iranian meddling in Yemen for Houthi rebels; the resentment for accepting Islam is surfacing in younger generation. Many Persian women are posting videos on social media, while throwing face veils and openly condemning gender discrimination against women, which is hallmark of orthodox Islam.
If the trends continues to go in present direction, world would see more and more Persians embracing Zoroastrian Faith like Kurds, which was identified with Persians till 9th century.
Is Islam on shaky ground?
Though the question seems to be premature and too early to think upon, the trends in Middle-East and Persia indicates towards stark reality. Islam, the regimented religion, was unchallenged so far. All attempts to question it were dealt with severe punishments. But things are not that much easy now. More and more followers of Islam are distancing themselves from Islam, surprisingly on the very native land where it was founded.
More and more Muslims asking logical questions to Islam and more and more Muslims silently turning towards their ancestral faiths, which were abandoned millennia ago, after mighty Sword of Islam conquered new territories and subjugated native non-Muslims, by finally converting them to Islam.
Internet has challenged spiritual hegemony of Islam and toppled spiritual monopoly of all authoritative religions.
The New Wave most likely going to deal deadly blow to Islam in Middle East and Christianity in Europe, where resurgent Pagan sects are growing like wildfire throwing Christianity and Islam in suffocating maelstrom…
It would be interesting to watch reaction of these two measure religions to neo-Pagan movements….