Baku, July 11, AZERTAC
Chairman of the Clerical Office of Caucasus Muslims Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade has today hosted the Iftar ceremony on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan at his residency.
The Iftar ceremony was attended by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
The event kicked off with the recitation of verses from the Quran.
Addressing the ceremony, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade expressed his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev for accepting the invitation to attend the Iftar ceremony organized on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.
Other speakers including head of the Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexander and chairman of the Religious Community of the Mountain Jews of Baku Milikh Yevdayev praised tolerance in Azerbaijan, and the country's contributions to developing interreligious dialogue.
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The head of state addressed the event.
Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Your Eminence Sheikh,
Distinguished religious figures,
Dear ceremony participants!
First of all, I want to cordially congratulate you and the entire Azerbaijani people on the upcoming holiday of Ramadan. I wish every Azerbaijani family peace, tranquility and happiness.
Our meetings in the blessed month of Ramadan are of traditional nature. This tradition was laid by great leader Heydar Aliyev and His Eminence Sheikh. It lives and will continue to live on. In essence, it is a great display of the relations between religion and the state. The relations between religion and the state in Azerbaijan were formed and developed on a sound basis. This is an important issue for each country. We have one goal. Our goal is to develop Azerbaijan, to protect the interests of the Azerbaijani people and to turn Azerbaijan into an even more powerful state. We are confidently and successfully moving towards this goal.
Great leader Heydar Aliyev has made an invaluable contribution to the people of Azerbaijan. If the people of Azerbaijan had not invited him to take power in 1993, the fate of Azerbaijan could have been very harsh. In fact, the early years of independence clearly showed this. Thanks to his determination, policies, courage and wisdom, Azerbaijan honorably overcame all of the hardships and embarked on a path of development. The present-day realities of Azerbaijan stem from those years.
His Eminence Sheikh as a religious figure is highly respected not only in Azerbaijan and in the Caucasus, but also on a global scale. Of course, the political skill of great leader Heydar Aliyev, the capacity of His Eminence Sheikh in the religious world, his world outlook and modern views have made the current realities of Azerbaijan possible in the mid-1990s. Today, the relations between religion and the state, including the relationship between His Eminence Sheikh and myself, are based on friendship. I want to say again that the confident and successful development of Azerbaijan rests on a very solid basis.
Of course, this economic development makes us happy. It is also the result of a judicious policy. Our international credibility is fairly high. Today, Azerbaijan is a country enjoying great support and respect in the world. But without a solid foundation we could not have achieved this success. Our sound policies, the unity between the people and the government, the fact that the relations between religion and the state rest on a solid foundation are the main conditions for our success.
Today, Azerbaijan as an independent state has reached the highest peaks. If we look at history, we can see that the Azerbaijani people have never lived as good as today. Azerbaijan has never been so strong. These successes have been achieved in a matter of 24 years. In fact, the early years of independence were difficult and disastrous. There are more than 200 countries in the world. All of them are independent. But in many cases this independence is half-hearted or conditional. We are an independent state in the true sense of the word. We are proud of that. Every patriotic citizen of Azerbaijan is proud of that.
At the same time, the government plays a role in the regulation of inter-religious relations in Azerbaijan. The numerous international forums and conferences conducted in Azerbaijan in the areas of interreligious dialogue, multiculturalism and humanitarian issues, of course, showcase our country to the world as an exemplary state. This also facilitates the development of inter-religious relations in Azerbaijan on a sound basis in the future. Azerbaijan hosts numerous activities related to Islam. These are attended by representatives of our neighboring states and guests from distant countries. These are the realities of the present-day Azerbaijan. The government has made and will continue to make efforts in this direction.
All historical mosques in Azerbaijan have been renovated by the state: the mosques Bibiheybat, Tazapir, Ajdarbay, the Shamakhi mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the Muslim world built in 743, the religious complex Imamzada, which is currently undergoing renovation. Of course, the construction and commissioning of the Heydar mosque at the end of last year was a historic event as well.
Several years ago, while praying in the sacred Kaaba during a pilgrimage to Mecca, I made a wish for a grand mosque named Heydar to be built in Azerbaijan. In April of this year, I was lucky enough to pray in the Kaaba once again. As His Eminence Sheikh told me, on the personal instruction of the Servant of the Two Holy Mosques, the King of Saudi Arabia, the holy Kaaba door was opened to me, His Eminence Sheikh and members of my family, and while praying in the holy Kaaba again, I said to myself that the Heydar mosque has been built. For me as a Muslim, there can’t be greater happiness than that. This is my debt to the memory of my father. As a Muslim, I am happy to have done that. I am also a happy person to have prayed inside the sacred Kaaba three times.
While in Saudi Arabia, I also visited the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Azerbaijan is an active member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. My meeting with the Secretary General of the organization and an exchange of views on a number of issues are further evidence that Azerbaijan is an active and respected member of this organization. In May, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Mr. Madani, was on a visit to Azerbaijan and emphasized in a speech at the forum on dialogue among civilizations in Baku that religious issues in Azerbaijan were being addressed at the highest level. In general, the words of the head of an organization that unites all Muslims about Azerbaijan and the realities of our country are certainly very valuable. I should note that the event held in May was attended by the Secretaries-General of UNESCO, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, ISESCO, etc. Their participation, in fact, is an indicator of the work Azerbaijan has carried out in this field. It has become commonplace for us. The atmosphere in Azerbaijan, the inter-religious, inter-ethnic relations, the values of multiculturalism are a way of life for us. But if we look at other countries, we will see that this is not the case everywhere. On the contrary, there is confrontation, war, clashes on ethnic and religious grounds. There is bloodshed on the grounds of religion. This is intolerable, and I agree with His Eminence Sheikh that the processes in the world today are not moving in a positive direction. A year ago, we were also gathered in this hall. Look at the huge threats that have arisen in the world in this period. They were not there just a year ago.
Inter-religious relations are experiencing a crisis. There are growing trends of Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Even high-ranking officials have been expressing very dangerous propositions regarding the values of multiculturalism, claiming that multiculturalism has failed, that it does not work and has no future. Let them come to Azerbaijan and see. Multiculturalism lives and is strengthening in Azerbaijan. His Eminence Sheikh, Father Alexander, Milikh Yevdayev and myself spoke at the opening of the Heydar mosque. That is our reality. This is normal for us. At the same time, the speeches of our Christian and Jewish brothers were some sort of a message, a signal to Azerbaijani society, the region and the world at large. And this is the way it should be. This is a normal life and a normal policy.
I want to say again that the further successful development of Azerbaijan is possible only in this direction. We can never allow some outside force to sow the seeds of discord in Azerbaijan on religious or ethnic grounds. The Azerbaijani state will never tolerate that, and Azerbaijani realities clearly demonstrate this.
Of course, we in Azerbaijan have addressed these matters at the highest level. Our successful development will be continued. But we want this to be the case everywhere. Under such circumstances, there will be confrontations on religious grounds, there will be no bloodshed, people will be creative, go about their lives and pay attention to their families. Therefore, the activities related to multiculturalism and interreligious dialogue in Azerbaijan are of great importance.
Azerbaijan is a model country. This is seen and recognized by any unbiased visitor to Azerbaijan. In any area, be it the beauty of our city, the security, the economic development, the social equality, the relationship between religion and the state, the inter-religious dialogue, and our overall opportunities. The hosting of European Games has demonstrated our capacity worldwide. We were aware of this potential. We knew what we were capable of, but some forces do not want to acknowledge that, see white as black and slander on us. We have no interest in anyone. We have built our lives and do not dictate anything to anyone, but we will never allow anyone, any outside force to dictate anything to us. We are an independent and worthy country. The fate of the Azerbaijani people is in their own hands. Therefore, impartial and friendly people coming to Azerbaijan see these realities. Domestically, we have resolved all major issues. Of course, there are social problems, our lands are under occupation, some of the refugees live in very difficult conditions, but their problems are being resolved. These are the problems facing us and we will resolve them, including the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which will be resolved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. There is no other option. Azerbaijan will never agree to any other option.
In all other areas – social justice, economic development, interreligious dialogue – we have already taken the necessary measures, thereby creating a solid foundation. We want this to be the case throughout the world. We want the relations between countries to be built on the basis of cooperation. They should not be based on rivalry, but on good will. We will continue our work in this direction.
I want to emphasize one more issue: national and religious values are above all for us. We should try and are trying to raise our youth also in the national spirit – in the national spirit and, at the same time, in the spirit of multiculturalism. There is no contradiction. Every patriot, someone who loves his homeland and nation deserves great respect. At the same time, a person who respects other religions and representatives of other nationalities is also worthy of great respect. Therefore, our young people should be brought up in this spirit. We must protect our young people from outside influences. There are attempts of outside influence and we all know that. I will resist this outside influence will all my might and will not allow anyone to impose their will on Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani youths are patriotic, educated and knowledgeable. The First European Games have once again demonstrated that. There were about 20,000 volunteers at these Games. They worked selflessly, day and night, from morning to evening. This is Azerbaijani youth. It is educated, multi-lingual, competent, professional, cultured and beautiful. We have already begun presenting them with a certificate of gratitude on my behalf and on behalf of the Chair of the European Games Organizing Committee, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva. They deserve that. Our young people should be raised in the national, patriotic spirit and, at the same time, they should be knowledgeable and educated.
Today’s world is experiencing a growing trend of terrorism, extremism and radicalism everywhere – in the Middle East, in Europe itself, etc. This may have different manifestations, but in essence, as they say, these are all about one concept. The best insurance against this, the best barrier is education. An educated and literate person rarely goes astray. It is easy to poison the minds of illiterate people. So our young people are competent and educated. We note this with approval. Our policy in this direction will be continued. Both public and religious organizations should be together in this again. Education in Azerbaijan, both in higher and secondary schools, as well as religious institutions, should be at a high level. The Azerbaijani state is taking and will continue to take all necessary measures in this direction.
In short, dear friends, at this Iftar ceremony, we express our wishes once again. We express our thoughts regarding the future of our country. I must say that I see the future of Azerbaijan as being bright because we are on a true path, the path of justice. The public and political situation in Azerbaijan is very stable. The unity between the people and the government gives us even more strength. No force can ever affect our successful path.
I would like to congratulate all Muslims of the world on the upcoming blessed holiday once again.
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Then Iftar was served.