Keeping religious radicals in Azerbaijani prisoners arouses public anxiety: deputy head of state committee (INTERVIEW)

Keeping religious radicals in Azerbaijani prisoners arouses public anxiety: deputy head of state committee (INTERVIEW)

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 27 / Trend , K.Zarbaliyeva/

Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijani State Committee on Religious Organizations Elchin Asgarov spoke with Trend in an exclusive interview.

Trend : Recent closure of some mosques has aroused anxiety in the society...

Elchin Asgarov: We do not have a conception, such as "trend of closing mosques in Azerbaijan ". Just the closure of some mosques coincided. Mosques were closed for various reasons. 

For example, there are no official orders to demolish the mosque in Oil Rocks. Mosque could subside because of the fact that sea water washed away its foundation and it was already demolished. The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) said that the mosque will be restored and all conditions will be created for religious men.

The documents of mosque knocked down in the Yasamal district originally were not in order. The local administrative body raised the issue of demolition of the mosque and the court decided to knock down the mosque. There are also reports about the closure of "Ilahiyyat" mosque, but it has not been closed. Rector of Baku State University believes that the mosque hinders the work of the university. However, the demolition of the mosque is not on the agenda," his said. He said that the mosque "Shehidler" will also re-open. There are 1,750 mosques in Azerbaijan. Only 1,000 of them are functioning. If it had been of a massive nature, the mosques would have been knocked down in other places as well.

Q: When will permission be given to resume the Abu Bakr Mosque's activity?

A: The mosque was closed after an act of terrorism. The activities of the mosque are not discussed any more. The investigation is going on. The mosque will re-open sooner or later. But it must act under law.

Q: What is the reason for repeated registration of mosques?

A: Earlier, different problems aroused, for instance, religious communities passed registration on one address, but located in a mosque at another address. In majority of cases, a mosque was not related to this community. There were contracts amongst the several, while the others settled in a mosque on unknown grounds. In this case, there was uncertainty with the communities which passed registration before the adoption of the Law on "Freedom of Religion". All communities must pass registration in accordance with recent additions and changes in the law. It will be clear what community occupies a certain mosque and what community is responsible for religious activity and propaganda conducted there. Everything is necessary to be taken into account. It is necessary to ensure order in this sphere.

Q: Last changes in the law "Religious freedom" are estimated as limitation of human rights. Do you agree with this statement?

A: This law was democratic from the beginning. Several limitations existing in European countries were suggested in the law. But they were not adopted here. The Parliament did not approve the roughest proposals. 

I do not agree that changes and additions limit human rights. There are no grave changes with registration. There is necessity in giving some information.

Communities pass registration upon the law on public unions. Muslim communities must get recommendation from Caucasus Muslim Religious Department. Several communities worry on this regard.

This method is applied on practice in many countries. The ministry of religious affairs appoints akhunds, religious figures in mosques in Turkey. Community itself elects its chairman here. There is institute of church in European countries.

New church can be established only upon permission of head church. A representative is appointed there. Our community elects its members and chairman. Caucasus Muslim Religious Department must produce recommendation indicating that this community is not radical, extremist.  

Q: It is confirmed that there is grave censorship for religious literature in Azerbaijan. Experts consider it illegal and suggest solving such issues via the court...

A: All religious literature brought to Azerbaijan and published here passes the state committee's advisory council not to allow bringing books advocating religious intolerance, discrimination in the country. The council can ban its distribution. Limitations are also possible for any religious trend, sects, as well as expulsion of several texts from books. International organizations suggest solving such issues via the court. This could lead to even greater hardship for the community. When we impose a ban, no administrative action against a person, who has brought this literature, is applied. If this issue will be resolved through court, then administrative penalty is inevitable. We have put a ban on the books of 50 items. Conclusions on 1,500-2,000 books have been made. The share of banned religious books does not exceed three percent of the total imported and published books of religious content.

Q: The arrest of members of radical religious groups has become frequent recently. Could this have a negative impact on the situation in the institutions of punishment?

A: Over the past ten years the cases to return to religion has become frequent recently. Most institutions have a mosque, the place for prayer. Institutions were provided with religious literature. Recently, the number of prisoners of radical religious members has increased. But there number is not so much in the general percentage. Heads of some agencies expressed their concern over this issue. However, it is not dangerous and is not widespread.

Q: The community is concerned with the recent ban on azan, close of mosques and others.

A: I would not say that such a prohibition do exists. Sometimes, there appeared certain discontent as a result of wrong actions of police officers and executive authorities and this affects the overall trend. There was a time when men's beards shaved off. If there was order to do so, the it would relate to all areas, cities, but not just to one village.

Necessary measures will be taken against anyone who violates the law, regardless of whether it is Muslim or not Muslim.

Q: The "nurchulug" group is recognized as a terror in Russia. Could the activity of members of this group to be prohibited in Azerbaijan?

A: Every group has a right to exist. In the case of any community violates the law, agitates radicalism, and takes action against the government of Azerbaijan, necessary measures are taking against those persons. We still do not apply measures against members of such movements as Wahhabism, nurchulug or any other.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at [email protected]

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