In a World of Intolerance, Azerbaijan is the Exception

In many countries in the world the social fabric is complex, made of many ethnicities and religious groups, not necessarily having copacetic and cordial relations.

A visit to the offices of Mr. Mubariz Gurbanli, the Chairman of the Republic of Azerbaijan State Committee on Religious Association, during the first week of May, 2019, explains why I named the article: “In a World of Intolerance, Azerbaijan is the Exception.”

Committee on Religious Association team, no intolerance.
Azerbaijan’s Committee on Religious Association welcoming team.

Mr. Gurbanli explained that his agency regulates religions’ relations and pluralism and adhering to them on behalf of the government. He went on to give our group of clergy, members of several faiths, media people and public servants from California a full explanation about what his office does and why.

Nowadays, in many countries and among countries the protection of pluralism is at risk and terror operates under the guise of religion.

Though no religion claims a call to kill in its name, radicalization, under the guise of religion, is becoming more common.

What Causes Radicalization and How to Avoid It?

Social issues a country faces, misconception of religions and quotations from religious texts, used for political reasons, are among the causes for radicalization of all sorts.

In Azerbaijan, the state controls religious affairs.

In Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country, with many ethnic groups, to address religious tolerance they simply do not teach intolerance of other religions. From an early age Azerbaijani children learn respect and tolerance for other religions and people. “You need to raise children properly,” states Mr. Gurbanli.

Committee on Religious Association, Mr. Mubariz Gurbanli, Chairman
Committee on Religious Association, Mr. Mubariz Gurbanli, Chairman

Tolerance of religions is part and parcel of the Republic of Azerbaijan Constitution and the country’s constitution is protected by the law. More so, the government invests and allocates a great deal of its financial resources to protect all religions practiced in the country.

In order for one to become a member of the clergy, one must be an Azerbaijan citizen, and adhere to the country’s governing laws.

Since Islam has shown a radicalization path, all Muslim Imams, who want to practice in Azerbaijan, must be educated in the country and no imam from any possible radical Islamic group can work in there.

No Ban on the Internet Yet, Avoiding Radicalization

What you ban becomes sweet,” states Mr. Gurbanli.

Committee on Religious Association-Mr. Gurbanli explains his committee's work - image of Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan's president in background
Committee on Religious Association-Mr. Gurbanli explains his committee’s work – image of Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president in background

We screen films to explain fitna,” Mr. Gurbanli continues his explanation about religions in Azerbaijan. Fitna is an Arabic word with extensive connotations of trial, affliction, or distress. Fitna means, charmingness, enchantment, captivation, fascination, intrigue; sedition, riot, discord, dissension, civil strife. “We organize media meetings to explain the importance of religious coexistence.”

Apparently, the Azeri population keeps a distance from religion. Though there are 136 mosques in Baku, the capital of the country, from over 3 million residing of the city, only 25-to-30,000 arrive at the Friday prayer, the most important prayer of the week in the Islamic faith.

During Ramadan all restaurants and cafes are open. Nobody is obliged to fast, as Muslims do during this holiday, you have a choice.

Ramaḍān is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. For Muslims, Ramadan lasts 29-30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths. It is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Is there any threat to the protection of religion in Azerbaijan?,” one of the delegation’s members asked.

California delegation with the Chairman of the Republic of Azerbaijan State Committee team
California delegation with the Chairman of the Republic of Azerbaijan State Committee team

Mr. Gurbanli, confidently smiling, replies: “No threat to religion’s protection if there is no nuclear war.”

The world has experienced over 3500 wars and conflicts, some last for years and even a century. Millions, perhaps billions, died because of those wars.

It is no way to behave, your faith killed some of us, so we kill some of you.

While in Azerbaijan I attended the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue. The forum’s slogan is: “Building dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality and violent conflict.”

That is the doctrine of Azerbaijan law and the country’s Committee on Religious Associations. With this, Azerbaijanis see all people the same, human beings and the result is tolerance and the love of others, which is the prevalent nature of ALL Azerbaijanis.

During the 2006 second Lebanon War, Nurit Greenger, referenced then as the “Accidental Reporter” felt compelled to become an activist. Being an ‘out-of-the-box thinker, Nurit is a passionately committed advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States, and the Free World in general. From Southern California, Nurit serves as a “one-woman Hasbarah army” for Israel who believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.
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