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Official: We are proud of our religious diversity

26 January 2024 12:39 (UTC+04:00)
Official: We are proud of our religious diversity
Abbas Ganbay
Abbas Ganbay
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"We are proud of our religious diversity, which does not depend on any political conjuncture. Muslims, Jews, Christians - we are all one family. This is part of our DNA," said the representative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan for special assignments, Elchin Amirbayov, in an article published in the American publication International Policy Digest, Azernews reports.

According to the article, "Although Azerbaijan is predominantly Muslim, its government and education system reflect the interests of its Muslim, Christian, and Jewish citizens." Krishna Nag, the author of the article, noted that "Azerbaijan, strategically located on the historic Silk Road linking East and West, has long been a beacon of hospitality."

"The country has previously received praise for its religious tolerance, including from Pope Francis, who called it a beacon in a world plagued by violent extremism."

Despite these positive qualities, Azerbaijan suddenly found itself under sanctions, the author notes. "Mysteriously, the United States has placed Azerbaijan on a list of countries monitoring religious freedom, along with states such as Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited concerns about the preservation of Christian heritage in Garabagh."

"We regret and reject this unjustified and biased decision," Elchin Amirbayev, President Ilham Aliyev's spokesman for special assignments, told International Policy Digest. As a former ambassador to the Holy See, Amirbayov spoke about Pope Francis' visit to Baku in 2016, during which the pontiff noted Azerbaijan's religious harmony.

The article emphasises that the decision to include Azerbaijan in the list of countries under surveillance is perplexing.

"International law has consistently recognised Garabagh and its surrounding provinces as Azerbaijani territory. Despite UN resolutions demanding Armenia's withdrawal, Azerbaijan has only recently regained its territories after decades of Armenian occupation."

Amirbayov said Western observers, including Emmanuel Dupuis of the Institute for Prospects and Security in Europe, have condemned the desecration and destruction of Azerbaijani cultural sites by Armenian forces over the years. "For decades, Azerbaijani cultural artefacts in Garabagh have been systematically vandalised, misappropriated, and destroyed," Dupuis said.

However, Armenia's inclusion on the same list never materialised, prompting accusations of double standards from Amirbekov. He contrasts this with Azerbaijan's commitment to preserve all cultural and religious sites after liberation. Azerbaijan also sees potential bias in the US commission's report, noting that one of its authors, Daniel Saroyan Ashbahian, is linked to Armenian defence groups.

"The apparent US bias on this issue is a cause for concern. They risk sidelining Azerbaijan, a country whose secular Muslim identity and alliance with the West make it a potential mediator in regional conflicts. Azerbaijan's recent peace proposals towards Armenia emphasise this potential," the article said.

"In a world of moderation and tolerance, it is counterproductive to alienate a strategic partner like Azerbaijan. Instead, the West would do well to capitalise on Azerbaijan's rich experience with religious pluralism, guiding it towards a more harmonious existence in the Middle East and elsewhere," the author concludes.

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