Forward magazine: “The Curious Case of Azerbaijan and Its Jew-Loving Muslims”

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Washington, October 27 AZERTAC

The US-based Forward magazine has issued an article headlined "The Curious Case of Azerbaijan and Its Jew-Loving Muslims".

The article says: “In April, the Kantor Center in Tel Aviv released a report highlighting that 2014 was one of the worst years for anti-Semitism in the last decade. This coincided with Israel's war in Gaza against Hamas. Many of the anti-Semitic incidents that took place, and especially some of the more violent ones, took place in Western Europe. Just like back then, Jewish communities are being urged in some places to hide their Jewishness. Azerbaijan, a small country lying in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, has a population of a little less than 10 million, predominantly Muslim. Azerbaijan has almost no anti-Semitism directed against the roughly 30,000 Jews living there. Any anti-Semitic incidents dealt with swiftly by the government, which adopts a zero-tolerance attitude.

The history of the Jews in Azerbaijan goes back to the days of antiquity. After the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE, Jews said to have settled in the area of Southern Azerbaijan, now the northwestern part of Iran. Another reason, according to Azerbaijani officials, is that tolerance for Jews in Azerbaijan grew organically, and has continued as a result of the present government's policies. Coupled with the natural hospitality of the Azerbaijani people, this led to a tolerance towards Jews seldom witnessed in Western Europe. Due to the many hard times Azerbaijan had gone through as a country under the rule of different empires, a certain attitude had developed toward people under constant persecution. A type of empathy ensued, which in turn led to a spiritual and historical closeness.

This kinship has led to Israel and Azerbaijan having official diplomatic relations since 1992, with strong economic and military ties, despite any discomfort that an increasingly hostile Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, might feel toward Israel. This, in turn, has led to Azerbaijan supplying 40% of Israel's oil needs through their Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Israel is also one of Azerbaijan's largest trade partners, with commerce between the two countries totaling over $4 billion. But the case of Azerbaijan shows more than the possibility of positive and growing relations between two countries; Azerbaijan has succeeded in bucking that trend of intolerance, becoming a beacon of light and hope that the rest of the Islamic world can only hope to emulate. It serves as an example of what a country can achieve if it uses tolerance, respect and mutual understanding as its guide rather than oppression, extremism and incitement.

Jews, Christians and Muslims are friends in Azerbaijan and celebrate each other's holidays and cultural experiences, and when you think about it, it's quite a remarkable feat that a small country in the Caucasus region with a population of just 10 million can lead the way for the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world.”

Yusif Babanli

Special correspondent

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