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Interview with  Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations Mubariz Gurbanli

Q: You have headed the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations for several months. And you have already come up with severalinitiatives. How would you assess religion-government relations in Azerbaijan?

A: Azerbaijan is developing at a rapid pace. The country has made considerable achievements in socio-economic and political areas. Azerbaijan`s achievements under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev are welcomed and praised both in the Azerbaijani society and among the international community. Azerbaijan today sets an example to other countries in terms of religion-government relations. Foreign guests visiting our country emphasize this fact. What is important is that the country`s socio-economic, political and diplomatic successes are positively affecting our national and moral values.

Azerbaijan is a modern state, which has completely ensured its state independence. Our young nation has dealt with much adversity, yet we have always held to our traditions of tolerance and the rule of law. Our independence has hard fought and we were left with much to modernize and much to build following our independence.

As far as religion-government relations are concerned I can say with confidence that the government of Azerbaijan attaches particular importance to preserving religious values. There are nearly 2050 mosques in the country. We also have representatives of other religions, and there are churches, synagogues and worship places for representatives of other confessions. There is no religious conflict in Azerbaijan.

Q: The issue of eliminating squandering in funeral ceremonies has recently emerged on the agenda. Your committee as well as members of the general public have come up with different initiatives on this issue. Have they yielded any results?

A: Large-scaled awareness campaign is being carried out in Azerbaijan in the field of religion. One of the key priorities here is preserving national and religious traditions. There have been many initiatives recently concerning the elimination of squandering in mourning traditions. This issue is being widely discussed both in the media and social networks. I should say that after the initiatives were put forward there has been considerable progress in this field. People themselves are making efforts to solve this problem.

In general, national traditions are regulated by law, and some outdated traditions can experience changes. So we are making steps in accordance with our traditions and principles of Islam. The Caucasian Muslims Office has already issued a fatawa on the elimination of squandering in mourning ceremonies. The media also has an important role to play here. Our imposing scholars and religious experts make valuable comments on this issue calling on people to refrain from squandering. And our monitoring and surveys in social networks revealed that the majority of our citizens are against squandering in mourning ceremonies.

Q: The activation of negative religious sects in countries is a source of concern. What about the situation in the country?

A: As you know that there are radical religious sects in Azerbaijan too. But in general, they are incapable of influencing on our society. They are not supported by our society. Because their ideas are alien to our people, our traditions and moral values. In addition, what they propagate totally contradicts the fundamental principles of Islam. As we know radical religious groups pursue their own political and geopolitical interests. So our people are against the propaganda of such radical ideas and values.

We have our own traditions, which we inherited from our grandfathers. And we do not need others to come and propagate their false ideas and principles. This is unacceptable.

Q: Some forces say insist that radical groups exist only in Islamic countries. Do you agree with this view?

A: It is not correct to associate religious radicalism with Islam only. Radicalism exists in Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism as well. The emergence of radical religious groups leads to confrontations and conflicts. We should prevent the emergence of radical groups both in Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, and launch serious fight against them.

Some western media outlets attempt to link radicalism and terror to Islam only. This is a slander campaign against Islam. Islam is a religion that calls to peace, unity, friendship.

Q: What is now happening in Iraq and Syria is also described as the result of the activity of radical groups…

A: Yes, it is absolute right. War and bloodshed in Iraq and Syria are directly linked to the activity of radical groups. The main aim of these groups, particularly ISIL terror organization, is to damage the image of Islam. What they are doing is widely covered by the media globally and people who read this news or watch those videos have negative perception of Islam.

Our religion, Islam, or any other monotheistic religion, does not legitimize such violence and murder. The world is rallying against the ISIL threat, forming a coalition to rally against the ISIL threat. ISIL militants and ISIL have nothing to do with Islam because our religion, Islam, would never sanction terrorism. In fact, none of the monotheistic religions would allow terrorism that threatens peace; we do not see such a thing in the holy books of these religions. Those terrorists are deceiving themselves when they commit murder in the name of a religion as a way of self justification and they bury their own problems deep.