◄ back to all

Rudaw: The Islam the West ‘desperately’ seeks can be found in Kurdistan, says a French intellectual

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Kurds follow a moderate, democratic Islam which western countries have been “desperately” looking for, a French intellectual said on Monday.

In a conversation with American philanthropist Thomas Kaplan, Bernard-Henri Lévy described the ‘Kurdish’ version of Islam as ‘matching” secularism, he told an audience at 92nd Street Y, a cultural and community center in New York City. 

 “I know since the beginning of [the] nineties, that this Islam which all of us are searching, this moderate Islam, democratic Islam,[….] matching with secularism and equality between men and women.This Islam that we pretend to look for all over the West, in my country desperately, it exists there in all Kurdistan,” he told the audience.

Lévy and Kaplan are co-founders of Justice for Kurds (JFK) which is a “not-for-profit advocacy group that seeks to educate and raise public awareness of the Kurdish cause, politics, history, culture and societies in America and abroad.” 

Lévy is known for his support to Kurds during the fight against the Islamic State group (ISIS) and events which followed, including the independence referendum in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).  

Also known as BHL, the French philosopher, filmmaker and intellectual has given many interviews focusing on the Kurdish issue in the Middle East, calling for international support for Kurds in both Iraq and Syria.

He directed two documentary films on Peshmerga fighters: “Peshmerga” and “the Battle of Mosul”, and was later honored for them in Washington by America Abroad Media (AAM) last year.

More than 95 percent of Kurds in the KRI are Sunni Muslims. 

“For me, this is not[a] question of honor. This is [a] question of consistency. Do we genuinely look for this great Islam -compatible with our creeds, Western creeds- or not?”

“If we do, we have to support the Kurds and we have to demand justice for the Kurds. This is my state of mind,” added Lévy.

Unlike the rest of Iraq, many ethnic and religious groups live alongside one another in the KRI.  

Asked by Kaplan what brought him to Kurdistan, Lévy replied that it was the war against ISIS. The French intellectual decided to be “embedded” with Kurdish forces after hearing that they were fighting the terror group.

“When I understood in 2015 that these guys and ladies were waging this fight I decided to be embedded with them, I decided to follow their fight, I decided to bear testimony for them [and] I decided to share their lives,” he said.

The Kurds lost more than 11,000 in the fight against the ISIS, including more than 1,000 Peshmerga soldiers. Kurdish forces are often credited as key actors in defeating the terror group. 

back to top


Credit photo: Bernard-Henri Lévy in conversation with Thomas S. Kaplan on November 4, 2019 at 92Y.