Iraqi MP defends Lucifer

Baghdad, Iraq - The devil looked in on Iraq's parliament on Wednesday when a member of parliament upbraided Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari for speaking ill of Lucifer.

Kameran Khairi Said, a Kurdish MP and a member of the minority Yezidi community that worshipped the peacock angel, also known as Lucifer, angrily interrupted the prime minister during a parliamentary debate.

"Mr Prime Minister and ministers, my speaking out might seem strange to you, but we feel insulted when you repeatedly use the expression in your speeches and statements 'God protects us from the devil'.

"Each time the word is pronounced, my colleagues turn towards me as if I were a representative of the devil."

Yezidis followed a pre-Islamic religion, which some believed was founded in the 12th century by Sheikh Uday bin Masafel al-Amawi, although many scholars traced its origins to the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia.

Sheikh Uday was born in Damascus, but died in the town of Lalish, in northern Iraq, where his tomb had became the Yezidis' holiest shrine.

The community was still largely based in the foothills, north of Iraq's main northern city of Mosul, and in the Sinjar Mountains on the border with Syria.

But, followers of the faith could be found throughout the Kurdish diaspora, in neighbouring Syria and Turkey as well as the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus, or in Germany and Britain.

Position of authority

Said said: "There are 600 000 to 700 000 Kurdish yezidis and they feel insulted whenever you use that phrase and we call on all those in a position of authority to take account of this."

The Yezidis did not believe in heaven or hell, and did not regard Satan as evil. In fact, they worshipped him - but dare not say his name.

Three of Iraq's 275 MPs belonged to the sect whose members did not marry outside the faith. There were also two Yezidis in the 111-seat regional Kurdish parliament.

Jaafari said he meant no harm in using the expression, common among Muslims.

He said: "When we use this expression it is not to insult you or to provoke a minority.

"Even if religions are different, all agree on the need to respect one another, especially in this forum where respect for others is essential. But one must also respect the majority and the majority is Muslim."