By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Baku must be given the status of the “Cross-Cultural and Interfaith Harmony City” of the world, geopolitical analyst, commentator and award-winning journalist Malik Ayub Sumbal has said in an interview with Azernews.
The expert noted that Azerbaijan has been promoting inter-religious, cross-cultural and multiracial cooperation very strongly in the past 27 years of its independence and President Ilham Aliyev has played an important role in fostering Azerbaijan’s image as a diverse and moderate society.
Sumbal was commenting on Azerbaijan’s hosting the 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders in Baku on November 14-15.
The analyst reminded that Azerbaijan has hosted dozens of events promoting religious interfaith harmony and tolerance among various religions in the past years. Explaining the reason why Baku has become a hub of such kinds of events, he emphasized that Azerbaijan has branded its image in the world as a role model country for the religious interfaith harmony and cross-cultural society.
Azerbaijan has played a tremendous role in promoting peace and dialogue between different ethnicities, cultures and religions, he noted.
"I would even say that Azerbaijan is the only country where I have seen such a great interfaith between Muslims sects Shia and Sunni. In Azerbaijan I have seen Shias and Sunnis pray in the same mosque. This is something that really makes Azerbaijan one of the leading countries practicing tolerance and interfaith. There are many other religions [in Azerbaijan] that have strong protection [by government] and even different religions have a very strong interactive relation," he told.
Sumbal also praised Azerbaijan’s success in tackling its humanitarian crisis of the early 1990s, that had been caused by Armenian troops occupying Azerbaijani lands and expelling one million Azerbaijanis from their homes.
"Azerbaijan accommodated a huge number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and this was Ilham Aliyev’s strong commitment to settle all IDPs," Sumbal added.
Another expert, Peter M. Tase, who is a scholar of international affairs and the author of various books on Azerbaijani and Latin American politics, has listed three main reasons why Azerbaijan is the perfect host country for the Summit of World Religious Leaders.
“The first reason is the country’s effective and transparent, government institutions; the second is a visionary leadership of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who has strengthened the inter-religious dialogue and interfaith harmony and bolstered national economy (with an impressive pace, unlike any other leader in Eurasia),” Tase said.
“Finally, the peaceful coexistence among Sunny Muslims and Shia Muslims as well as the admirable tolerance between Muslims and mountain Jews, are the testimony to a harmonious lifestyle among religions and communities of various religions that have been living in Azerbaijan for many centuries,” the analyst added.
Tase considers the establishment of the Baku International Multiculturalism Center under the Leadership of Academician Kamal Abdullayev and Its Executive Director Ravan Hasanov an important step to preserve cultural diversity and promote the Azerbaijani model of intercultural dialogue and interfaith harmony.
"Azerbaijan has established a general framework and legislative initiatives that support dialogue among religions, civilizations, various ethnic groups and tolerance among diverse cultures," he stated.
In the end, Tase noted that Azerbaijan is governed by visionary politicians and genuine patriots “who will continue to make Azerbaijan an attractive host nation for the world's largest Humanitarian Summits and Geopolitical Conferences.”
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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