European parliament: EU should contribute to Azerbaijan's model of secularism in Muslim world

Photo: European parliament: EU should contribute to Azerbaijan's model of secularism in Muslim world / Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 6

By Elmira Tariverdiyeva - Trend:

The separation model between state and religion in Azerbaijan, where the culture of tolerance fostered by the state, provides a solid foundation on which domestic peace can be built, László Surján, vice-president of the European parliament and member of the working group on freedom of religion or belief, and Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers International, said in their article published in The Parlament.com.

"Mutual respect, solidarity across denominational borders and dialogue are the core
values underpinning secularism in the country," according to the article.

"The Azeri society is built on positive secularism, meaning not abandoning the denominations,
neither excluding religion from public life, but practicing the perspective of the same proximity to all beliefs," the authors said.

"The EU needs a stable and peaceful Azerbaijan in the Caucasus, because Salafist extremists in Dagestan and Chechnya are a destabilising force in the region," the authors said.

"Azerbaijan's model of secularism also needs more visibility in the wider Muslim world, in particular in the Arab Spring countries. The EU would do well to contribute to this effort."

"In the time of ever-changing ideologies, people tend to understand their identities against the ones of the others and overfill the segments of their lives with sentiments and stereotypes," the authors said. "This is especially dangerous when leaders of a country misuse such sentiments for the purpose of gaining political capital as it results in the persecution of minority religions.

"In August of this year a delegation of Human Rights Without Frontiers International visited a dozen non-Muslim religious communities and their places of worship in Azerbaijan," the authors said. "This was a unique opportunity to analyse the impact of Azerbaijan's separation model of state and religion on the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in that country context."

"Jews have been living in the country for more than 2,000 years and for about 1400 years as a minority in a Muslim environment," the authors said.

"Unlike many other countries in the world, there is no overt discrimination, social hostility or organised manifestation of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan," according to the article. "They peacefully live among the Shi'a and Sunni Muslims who make up 96 per cent of the country's population. In 2003, a new synagogue was opened in Baku thanks to the generosity of donors of various faiths, including Azerbaijani Muslims."

Christianity is also represented by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Roman Catholic Church. The ROC suffered a lot during the Soviet regime but its recent revival was made possible by the support of the presidency as well as major financial contributions of philanthropists of various faiths and other religious communities.

Their cathedral was restored thanks to a donation from Aydin Gurbanov, a Muslim businessman.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also gave them a plot of land on which to build a religious cultural centre.

"Twenty-one non-Muslim denominations are registered in Azerbaijan, including the Lutheran church, Word of life, Hare Krishna and others," according to the article. "They live on good terms with each other and with Muslims."

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