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Religious issues in spotlight at int'l conference in Baku

14 November 2012 20:46 (UTC+04:00)
Religious issues in spotlight at int'l conference in Baku

By Seymur Aliyev

Religious factors have played a great role in the historical process of the shape-up of the sense of Azerbaijani people's national identity, head of the state body in charge of religious organizations told an international conference in Baku on Wednesday.

"However, there is a risk of damaging the basics of formation of the national identity," chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, Elshad Iskandarov, told the conference, which took place in the Institute for Human Rights of the National Academy of Sciences.

"If we follow the rules and principles of some religious trends, many of our historical values will become alien to us," Iskandarov said. "According to the ideology of these trends, such personalities as Nizami Ganjavi, Fizuli [great poets] and the Novruz holiday are alien to us."

Iskandarov said Azerbaijan should continue maintaining an atmosphere of religious tolerance, but at the same time make a distinction between freedom of expression and personal freedom.

"Taking into account the geopolitical area Azerbaijan is located in, we aim to establish a balance between freedom of opinions and national security," he noted.

He added that at present, the main purpose of Azerbaijan's policy on religion is to create favorable conditions for religions, without any conflicts.

Head of the Caucasus Muslims Office, Sheikhulislam Haji Allahshukur Pashazade, said at the conference that the relations between the state and religion are at a good level in Azerbaijan. He said each nation has its own traditions and customs, so it is necessary to proceed in accordance with them.

"Freedom of conscience and religion also has its limits," Pashazade continued. "If one crosses these boundaries, the rights of other people are violated in society. So, religious groups must operate in accordance with these rules. We are not against other religions and have good relations with them."

He added that Azerbaijan can be an example of tolerance in the world.

Religious groups with financial resources active in Azerbaijan are trying to get the poor into their ranks under the guise of humanitarian aid, Director of the Human Rights Institute, MP Ayten Mustafayeva said at the conference.

Mustafayeva noted that hundreds of religious groups are registered in Azerbaijan.

"There are peaceful and harmless groups among them. But there are also those who pose a serious threat to national interests and security," she said.

According to Mustafayeva, under the guise of religious activities, representatives of some foreign entities are establishing their representations in Azerbaijan and collecting various kinds of information about the political, military and economic situation in Azerbaijan. Mustafayeva called on relevant government agencies of Azerbaijan to take the activity of such groups seriously because of a potential threat they pose.

Mustafayeva also stressed the importance of establishing religious schools in Azerbaijan. In her opinion, wearing hijabs is a private matter of the people in Azerbaijan. "However, I think that parents who want their children to go to school wearing hijabs should send them to religious schools."

Asked about the lack of religious schools in Azerbaijan, the MP said it is important to establish more such schools in the future.

She added that a school uniform that has been introduced in secondary schools must be observed.

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