POLITICS


Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahashukur Pashazade: The mission of a religious leader should be to serve peace and tranquility, not conflict

Baku, June 12, AZERTAC

In his interview with AZERTAC, Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahashukur Pashazade has commented on Armenian provocations recently taking place in the region. Sheikh-ul-Islam said:

“As you may know, I usually prefer not to touch upon political matters, but if the topic is related to the interests of the motherland and people, it is impossible to remain indifferent to attempts to damage them.

Aram I, the head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church who lives outside our region, has recently made an inflammatory and instigating statement on a sensitive issue for the Caucasus region, which has caused outrage of the peoples of the region. Unfortunately, this representative of the clergy, demonstrating a position that corresponds to the wishes of a political leader, not the instructions of the Almighty, has become a political tool for the sake of his own ambitions. Catholicos Aram I acting on the instigation of politicians is not worried about the fate of the Caucasus region and the tragic consequences his statement may have for the peoples of the region, including Armenians. The only desire of this religious leader is to advance his religious career by making populist statements. In order to earn dividends on this path, Aram I has repeatedly visited Karabakh lands. And now he intends, under the dictate and political guidance of new leaders, to stir up the region and act as an ideologue of a religious war.

Such actions and irresponsible statements, as well as the glorification by Armenians of such followers of the fascist ideology as Nzhdeh, unequivocally undermine peace and stability in the Caucasus. The goals of the Armenian Catholicos from Lebanon, who is playing with fire by trying to rekindle the conflict, transfer it onto the religious plane and exacerbate the Christian-Muslim confrontation, are quite clear. The reason for the silence of the Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, on this issue is also unknown. Karekin II, who has repeatedly been at the forefront of visits by Armenian leaders to Nagorno-Karabakh and acted as a prisoner of politicians, is trying to morally justify the occupation of Azerbaijani lands they have seized. He forgets that the joint declarations we signed at meetings in the name of a peaceful coexistence of our peoples express the hope for making a contribution to the preparation of mutually acceptable solutions only by peaceful means and within the framework of international law.

We resolutely declare that it is unacceptable to allow for provocations in this direction and remain indifferent to such escapades. Attempts to interfere in the recommendations of Aram I’s well-known patrons with the events taking place in our region and to drive them in a negative direction must be resolutely and unequivocally stopped. I believe that, first of all, it is the Armenian people themselves who must express their attitude to such provocations. For our part, we, the Caucasian Muslims Office demand that Catholicos Aram I put an end to such irresponsible and inflammatory statements.

Speaking of this, I want to mention a few facts with reference to historical sources. Starting from the beginning of the 19th century, the majority of the Armenian population of Turkey and Iran was en masse settled in the Caucasus, especially in Azerbaijan. In 1978, the Armenians resettled in Karabakh erected a monument (“Maraga-150”) in Mardakert, which was renamed from Aghdara (now the village of Shikharkh of Tartar District) to mark the 150th anniversary of their resettlement to these territories. However, they subsequently knocked it down as it did not correspond to their claims and interests.

Despite all attempts at falsification, the historical reality is such that the policy of genocide and aggression pursued by Armenian nationalists against our people has lasted for more than two hundred years. The occupation of Azerbaijani lands, which began in 1988, has become the bloodiest page in this bitter chronicle which coincides with the history of Armenian resettlement to Azerbaijani lands. The occupation by Armenian extremists of 20 percent of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, the deportation of Azerbaijanis as a result of a policy of ethnic cleansing, the forcing of over a million of our fellow compatriots to live in the status of refugees and internally displaced persons, the destruction of our material and spiritual heritage on the occupied territories, the Khojaly genocide – all these are the tragedies experienced in the modern history of our people due to the “great Armenia” obsession of Armenian ideologues. When the conflict began, another tragedy could have occurred but we managed to prevent it, albeit with great difficulty. This happened because we did not allow the conflict to move onto a religious plane. At that time, serious attempts were made to achieve that – the Armenian side incited by politicians sought to turn the conflict into a Christian-Muslim confrontation and set the Christian and Muslim worlds against each other.

We, the religious leaders of the Caucasus, have repeatedly met with each other and did everything possible for a fair peaceful settlement of all conflicts for the sake of stability in our region and happiness of our peoples. Since the very beginning of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has lasted for several decades and poses a threat to peace not only in our region but also on the planet, we have held numerous meetings in various years with the participation of mediation missions of the Russian Orthodox Church, the World Council of Churches and the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church. As religious leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, we explicitly said in joint statements that the conflict is by no means religious in nature. Thus, we prevented the confrontation of our peoples on religious grounds for political purposes. In particular, the exceptional role of the Russian Orthodox Church in this matter is undeniable. The peacemaking mediation activities of the late Patriarch Alexy II and the current Patriarch, His Holiness Kirill, corresponds to the mission of a real religious leader and serves as an example worthy of the highest approval. We are always grateful to the Russian Orthodox Church and its leaders for their valuable efforts and consistent position in this regard.

A good example of the position of an elder, a wise approach peculiar of a religious leader is demonstrated by the oldest religious leader of the Caucasus, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. On the issue that has arisen in recent months with regard to the Keshikchidag temple located on the territory of Azerbaijan, which is also an important sanctuary for Georgian believers, we have witnessed the moderate approach of the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who considers the preservation of peace and brotherhood between our peoples a priority. A harsh reaction and serious protest was quickly expressed by Patriarch Ilia II. He voiced hope for a prompt solution of this border issue by officials of Georgia and Azerbaijan and condemned those peddling the issue from the outside. The Patriarch of Georgia also did not rule out the role of outside forces interested in this issue, expressed a strong position and pointed to unacceptability of that. We would like to express our deep appreciation to Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II for the wise mission of the elder. We think that the third party seeking to whip up tensions might be the pro-Armenian elements who want to sow discord between Azerbaijani and Georgian nations.

In fact, the Armenian trace is felt in all matters against Azerbaijan all over the world. A characteristic feature of Armenian extremists is that they do not shun anything – from terrorist attacks on our country to provocations and moral and ideological pressure against Azerbaijan outside the Republic. It is no coincidence that the recent issue of the deportation of Azerbaijani journalist Fuad Abbasov from Moscow clearly illustrates Armenian influence and, unfortunately, a pro-Armenian position. The activities of Fuad Abbasov, a native of Karabakh, a patriot, a qualified journalist who was suppressing Armenian propaganda and demonstrating a truly civil position in Russia, in particular, his activities aimed at preventing Armenian provocations in the confrontation between Azerbaijanis and Chechens, were unwelcome for certain pro-Armenian forces. We, the Azerbaijanis, want our compatriot Fuad Abbasov to be acquitted of these contrived accusations and to be released. We, believers, highly appreciate his personality and patriotic activity and consider that it is important to protect his rights. This is our civic duty and a desire to be on the side of justice. As Sheikh-ul-Islam, I express the position of our believers and my personal position. We want the truth to prevail and the problem to be resolved within the framework of Russian and Azerbaijani laws.

Despite all the provocations in political, religious, ideological and military spheres, we have high hopes for negotiations aimed at a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its peaceful resolution based on international law. We demand that the Armenian side unconditionally adhere to the four well-known resolutions of the UN Security Council. We expect tangible results from the peacemaking efforts of the world community, the OSCE Minsk Group. Religious leaders, in turn, should provide all possible support for these efforts in the name of restoring peace and justice.

We, religious leaders, proceeding from our responsibility and duty to the Almighty and our peoples, have taken and will continue to pursue these actions to achieve a just peace and understanding between our peoples and states, peaceful coexistence and mutual trust. All religions call for peace, reconciliation. They call for life, not death. Religion should serve this. Abuse of religious feelings for political purposes is unacceptable. The mission of a religious leader should be to serve peace and tranquility, not conflict and confrontation.

May the Almighty establish an eternal and fair peace in the Caucasus and send happiness to our peoples. Amen!"

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