Ganja, February 17, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has reviewed the conditions created at Imamzade religious complex in Ganja after major repair and reconstruction.
Dating back to the 8th century, the historical monument Imamzade also known as the Blue dome, the Blue Mosque or the Blue Imam Turbeh, is one of the architectural landmarks of the city of Ganja. Ibrahim, the son of the fifth Imam Mohamed Baghir is buried here. The construction of Imamzade Turbeh dates back to the late 14th century – early 15th century. The complex is located on the ancient trade roads of the East. Throughout the centuries, Imamzade has been a holy place for Muslims of Azerbaijan and other countries.
Imamzade complex was restored in the 19th century.
President Ilham Aliyev first met with representatives of the country`s general public and religious figures.
The ceremony kicked off with the recitation of verses from the Quran.
The head of state addressed the event.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev:
- Your Eminence Sheikh, dear religious figures and participants in this ceremony!
I cordially congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of the opening of the religious and cultural monument Imamzade after reconstruction and restoration.
Today's ceremony is being attended by religious leaders and representatives from all regions of our country. I have invited them here because the Imamzade monument is our national treasure. Imamzade is a dear and valuable monument of the entire Muslim world. The Azerbaijani people have for centuries, regardless of the public and political system, cherished, protected and will continue to protect this monument. Imamzade is our national heritage. Several years ago, I signed an order on the reconstruction and overhaul of this religious and cultural monument, the work began and today we are seeing its results. A new mosque, a ceremonial hall and office buildings have been built, and the territory expanded. This attests to the attitude of the Azerbaijani state towards national and religious values. All religious monuments in Azerbaijan are protected, restored and reconstructed by the state. About 2,000 mosques and temples of other religions have been built in Azerbaijan in the years of independence. Orthodox, Catholic, Albanian churches and synagogues have been reconstructed and overhauled. We have reconstructed and refurbished the Bibiheybat, Tazapir, Ajdarbay, Shamakhi Juma and other mosques that represent great value for our history and people. In 2014, the country's largest mosque, the Heydar mosque, was built. It is also an important historical, architectural and religious monument of the Muslim world.
The relations between the state and religion in Azerbaijan are regulated and addressed at a high level. These relations are of great importance for the sustainable development of our society and country. The Azerbaijani model today is studied in various countries around the world. Our policy in this direction has already proved itself in the country, in the region and around the world. We are committed to our national, spiritual and religious values. We protect them and, at the same time, make every effort to strengthen solidarity in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the situation in the Muslim world in recent years has not been very reassuring. The traditional contradictions are exacerbated by renewed standoffs and confrontation. This makes us very worried.
In the years of independence, Azerbaijan has always sought to further strengthen unity and solidarity in the Muslim world. To this end, our country has hosted various activities. Dozens of events have been held under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and ISESCO. I can say that Azerbaijan and its policies are perceived with great approval in the Muslim world, in all segments of the Muslim world. We will continue to try to resolve the differences and reduce tension among Muslim countries by our policies, including diplomatic efforts. This is our duty. This is how we see that. All Muslims in Azerbaijan live like one family. Never in the history of Azerbaijan have there been any problems on the basis of religion. There hasn’t been, should not be and will not be even a slight misunderstanding on these grounds. A good example of this is the prayer of unity recently performed by all Muslims at the Heydar Mosque.
We will make efforts in this direction. I want to say again that Azerbaijan is a country with a great reputation in the Muslim world. We have achieved this not only with economic and social development. The entire Muslim world also appreciates the role we are playing in interreligious relations. My visits to Muslim countries and the visits of leaders of Muslim countries to Azerbaijan are further evidence of my words.
Representatives of all religions live in Azerbaijan like one family. This is our greatest asset. As I have already noted, Orthodox, Catholic Albanian churches and synagogues are built and renovated in Azerbaijan. Religious relations in Azerbaijan rest on sound footing. We have a role to play in the world in this direction. Azerbaijan has hosted a summit of leaders of world religions. We have conducted traditional humanitarian forums and forums for intercultural dialogue. This year, Azerbaijan will host the 7th UN Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, the most influential forum for interreligious and intercultural dialogue on a global scale. This year, Azerbaijan takes over this honorable mission.
All this work pursues one goal: first and foremost, to ensure the successful development of our country, for all the people of Azerbaijan to live in comfort, to bolster security in the region, to further enhance the role of Azerbaijan, as well as respect, confidence and sympathy towards us. We are seeing that. At the same time, I am absolutely convinced that if religious standoffs are continued in the world, it will bring about huge mishaps. Every year we see new centers of conflict, new hotbeds. Today, people talk more about a migration crisis. As the head of state, I have repeatedly stated our country's position on this issue, and I think that it should be the case. We can’t remain indifferent to this problem. People suffering from external interference have become forced migrants in order to save their lives and families. They are exposed to this suffering, are faced with immense threats and turn to Europe simply to die. On the way, many of them drown in the sea or die elsewhere. We can see that the attitude towards them is not quite consistent with the principles enshrined by Europe. These people aren’t guilty of anything. If their countries hadn’t been faced with outside interference, they would live in their own countries. These people, the millions of people who have lost their loved ones and found themselves in the situation of refugees and displaced persons, just want to escape. In some cases, they are faced with very unworthy treatment. They are humiliated. A negative opinion about them is already being formed in the world media.
I have repeatedly expressed my opinion on this matter. In fact, addressing the recent conference on the Syrian crisis in London, I said that in the early 1990s Azerbaijan was faced with a humanitarian disaster. As a result of the Armenian occupation, one million people were driven out of their homes. At that time we had no opportunities or money. The economy was in a completely collapsed state. We coped with this crisis practically on our own. It is true that up to 2010, international donors did provide us with some help. That assistance however could not meet the needs of one million people, of course. So we did it and overcame this ordeal alone. Great work is still being done to improve the plight of forced migrants. We have built about 90 settlements, about 250,000 IDPs have moved into new and beautiful apartments and houses. Therefore, it is sometimes impossible to understand such an attitude towards migrants from the Middle East.
There is another side to this. I have already spoken about this and want to repeat. This situation, in particular the one-sided anti-propaganda conducted in relation to migrants in the western media, leads to the growing strength of radical parties. The number of people voting for them in Europe is on the increase. They gradually gain more political support. If things go on like this, they may come to power in their countries in a few years. What will happen then? How will interreligious relations be governed then? Today, the official position of almost all European countries is, of course, positive. Some European governments are trying to treat migrants decently. We see and approve of that. However, I want to repeat that if this standoff and propaganda on religious grounds continues, we will be faced with enormous challenges in the future.
Of course, Azerbaijan is not a very large country in global terms. But our word carries great importance and weight. Therefore, when I personally make Azerbaijan’s position on these issues known to the international community, I also indicate ways of their solution. And the solutions are clear in the example of Azerbaijan. Why do some countries say today that multiculturalism has failed and has no future? This is a misconception. Have a look – multiculturalism in Azerbaijan is very much alive. Look at how these issues are regulated by a country with a relatively short history of independence, which has faced great difficulties, is a victim of occupation and has never pointed to the religious affiliation of the occupier. Why? Because this is our public policy! I want to say again that public policy plays a major role. On the other hand, a huge role in this is played by our religious leaders. In particular, I want to commend the work of His Eminence Sheikh. He represents Azerbaijan in the country, the CIS and the world as a tolerant country where all religions coexist. I also appreciate the work of other religious figures – they are present here today and will have the opportunity to speak. They also make numerous foreign visits and speak about Azerbaijani realities. That is the main factor. At the same time, this model of Azerbaijan is, of course, underpinned by public opinion. The Azerbaijani public also fully supports this policy.
Therefore, we celebrate all religious holidays together. We participate in all ceremonies together. This ceremony will also be addressed by the heads of Orthodox, Jewish and Catholic communities. This is natural and should be the case. Unfortunately, we do not see that in some countries.
We will go our own way. Today, Azerbaijan demonstrates its development model in any direction, and the excellent results confirm the viability of this model. We will take further measures in relation to multiculturalism. As you know, this year in Azerbaijan has been declared a "Year of multiculturalism". The International Centre for Multiculturalism has been created in Azerbaijan. Last year, Azerbaijan hosted the European Games, and Islamic Solidarity Games will be held next year. These are not just competitions of athletes from Muslim and European countries. It is our contribution to universal human values. This is how we perceive and understand our responsibility. We will bear this responsibility, first and foremost in the interests of our state and nation, and on the other hand, in order to restore stability in the region. After all, if stability is not restored in the region, it will inevitably affect us. Both you, as people watching the media, and our public know that attempts are being made to engage Azerbaijan in different camps and activities not related to us. We are going our own way. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country. We do not have such thoughts. We do not and will not allow any country to interfere in our internal affairs. No matter how many pressures and threats we may face, we will not deviate from this path. So we have our own way. If you see that the situation is difficult somewhere, we talk about it, point the way and set an example. We do not express certain ideas simply to criticize someone. We say: look at how these issues are addressed in Azerbaijan. Why is that possible in Azerbaijan? Why can people in Azerbaijan rally around a common goal and idea, while in other countries people kill each other and shed blood for far-fetched reasons? Not even knowing what they are being killed for. The vast majority of people fighting in the Middle East do not understand which side they are on and whose interests they are protecting. They shed fraternal blood and destroy cities. So much so that it is impossible to ever restore these cities and countries. Why? Because of the propaganda, external influence and weak governments! Where there is a strong government and where it is together with the people, no outside force can affect it or involve it in any escapades.
I want to repeat: Azerbaijan is a country defending its position and conducting its own policy. The people of Azerbaijan are the source of our strength. If the people of Azerbaijan do not support us, we will not be able to pursue an independent policy. Today, the independent Azerbaijan can be proud of any issue. Both our political and international authority are growing. Economic development is obvious. Inter-religious and ethnic relations are provided at the highest level.
The whole of Azerbaijan is gathered here today. There are representatives from all regions of Azerbaijan here. I welcome them all. I want to ask them to pass on my greetings to the people of their respective regions. My greetings to the people of Ganja! I congratulate them on the fact that the religious and cultural center Imamzade has acquired a new appearance. Thank you, and I wish you continued success.
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Then Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade delivered a speech.
Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade presented a Holy Quran to the head of state.
Other speakers at the event included Archbishop of Baku and Azerbaijan eparchy Alexander Ishein, chairman of the Religious Community of Mountain Jews Milikh Yevdayev, head of Azerbaijan Catholic Church Vladimir Fekete and dean of Ganja State University Mubariz Yusifov.
Mubariz Yusifov handed “Ganja Imamzade Temple” book to the Azerbaijani President.
After the ceremony, the head of state reviewed the conditions created at Imamzade complex.
President Ilham Aliyev was informed about the repair and restoration of Imamzade religious complex, as well as the landscaping work carried out around the complex. The reconstruction and landscaping work started in May, 2010. The complex occupies a total area of 10 hectares. The three-storey main building of the complex covers an area of 2,000 square meters. The building has ablution spaces for women and men, a storehouse, administrative and technical rooms and a hotel. There are two prayer halls for women and men, a religious library, a conference hall and a museum in the complex.
The head of state visited the grave of Ibrahim, the son of the fifth Imam Mohamed Baghir.
On behalf of residents and believers, representative of the Caucasian Muslims Office for the western region Haji Tahir Abbasov thanked the head of state for his attention to the religion and for the reconstruction of the complex.
The temple was also reconstructed. It has two minarets, standing 45 meters in height, two prayer halls and a pilgrimage hall.
Imamzade religious complex has an altar, which occupies an area of 220 square meters, a 1000-seat hall, Huseyniyye and Zeynebiyye prayer halls, and two parking lots for 1,000 cars.