Iwpr: Azerbaijani Authorities Want To Turn Islam Into Something That

IWPR: AZERBAIJANI AUTHORITIES WANT TO TURN ISLAM INTO SOMETHING THAT CAN BE OWNED AND CONTROLLED

19:22 05/03/2013 ” SOCIETY

Azerbaijan has tightened restrictions on religious literature – both
imported and locally published- in a move that reflects official
worries about Sunni radicalism and also about interference by the
Shia theocracy in neighbouring Iran, the IWPR says.

“Legislative amendments passed in December 2011 made it a criminal act
to import, publish or distribute religious material that has not been
approved by the government committee for religious organisations. The
changes passed by Azerbaijan’s parliament on February 22 add to this
by requiring all such items – audio and video material as well as
literature – to carry an official stamp of approval, and confines their
sale to government-designated retail outlets,” the publication says.

Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country with a Shia majority. The
end of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought about a resurgence in Islam,
and the authorities frequently express concern about Tehran’s attempts
to project its influence in the Shia community of Azerbaijan. Among
the Sunni minority, the government takes a dim view of groups like
the Salafis, with roots in the Arab world.

“Azerbaijan has a new generation of believers who are very active,”
Goyushev said. “The government wants to control them and those
[foreign] influences. It wants to make Islam something it owns and
control,” Altay Goyushov, a historian of religion from Baku State
University, says.

According to the article the authorities are especially annoyed when
Islamic figures accuse them of mismanagement and corruption. “In
2011, Movsum Samadov, head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, was
arrested after comparing President Ilham Aliyev to one of the most
hated figures in the Shia tradition,” Sultanova writes.

Limiting access to Muslim literature is opposed by religious figures
like Faiq Mustafa of the Lezgi mosque in the capital Baku, where the
congregation is Sunni. “We need literature just like anyone else,”
he said. “We need it even more, in fact, because Islam is such a
complicated science. Unlike the stereotypical view that we gather in
the mosque for a chat, we have to read a great deal to be aware of
the Islamic rules for marriage, property, income, and so on. Religious
literature is at the core of our community’s development.”

The parliament debate also touched on the external signs of Islamic
observance. One member, Ilham Aliyev (who bears the same name as
Azerbaijan’s president), said he could not stand the sight of the
beards and short trousers favoured by Salafis, and said these people
should be ostracised from society. “International human rights
organisations have documented a number of cases where Salafis have
been harassed. Apart from hinting that they are potential terrorists,
the authorities are unhappy that Salafi congregations tend to avoid
registering with the official body that governs Azerbaijan’s Muslims,
both Shia and Sunni,” the article says.

Source: Panorama.am

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