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The Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Office, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh, hosted the Iftar ceremony in his residency on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.
President Ilham Aliyev participated in the ceremony.
First, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh informed President Ilham Aliyev of the progress of construction operations under way in his new residency. It was indicated that this residency, the construction of which is scheduled for completion next year, will have all the conditions for divine services and religious ceremonies.
The Iftar ceremony started with the recital of ayats and a prayer on the occasion of the month of Ramadan.
Addressing the ceremony, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh said:
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate!
Dear President Ilham Aliyev!
Distinguished religious figures, ambassadors, guests!
I am very pleased that on a Friday of this holy month you are attending our Iftar ceremony. It is a ceremony pleasing to God because it is the holy month of Ramadan. This is a month when the Koran was revealed, when sins are forgiven, when wishes of prosperity and abundance are made, when souls are freed. Our Iftar ceremonies have already become traditional. We are very pleased that Mr. President has accepted our invitation to participate in this ceremony. We are expressing our gratitude to the distinguished President.
Extensive work is under way in the state of Azerbaijan today. And Mr. President has very important things to do. Despite this, Mr. President, attaching importance to our national and spiritual values, is with us today. This is an indication of how highly he values our people, nation, religion and national traditions. Of course, the foundation of this tradition was also laid by our great leader Heydar Aliyev. May Allah rest the soul of our great leader Heydar Aliyev. Azerbaijan is successfully moving forward and developing in all areas on the basis of the foundation he has laid. At present, Azerbaijan has become one of the most important states known not only in the Caucasus, but also globally. And this is the result of the correct policies pursued by President Ilham Aliyev.
The Almighty has bestowed on us the wealth for life. The Almighty has sent us a lot of wealth. The most important of this wealth is the importance attached to humanity, our spirituality and culture. It is one of our core responsibilities to protect our monuments, restore them and pass them on to future generations.
Today, Azerbaijan is on the path of progress and, Insha'Allah, will develop in the future. The present generation is building the future, and I believe that, Insha'Allah, the development of the Azerbaijani people will be continued in the future. I believe in what Hazrat Ali aleyhisselam has said: "Teach your children for the future and teach future to them. Because they are the people of the future." Today, along with economic and political life, our spiritual world is also developing. This is obvious. When we wanted to hold the Summit of Religious Leaders of the World in Azerbaijan, not many people thought we could do that. The meeting of outstanding religious figures and patriarchs of different religions was a very important event. The participation of my friend, Catholicos-Patriarch, His Holiness Ilia, my close friend and brother, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, His Holiness Cyril, a representative of the Vatican and other world religious leaders, both Muslim and non-Muslim, was proof that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the preservation of spiritual values.
Azerbaijan is a country where, along with rapid development, there are peace and equality. The Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other humanitarian conferences held in our country are further evidence that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to its spiritual values.
In Soviet times we had only 18 mosques. In the 20 years of our independence their number has reached more than 850. Over 250 other mosques are to be registered. This alone shows progress has occurred in Azerbaijan’s spiritual life in the last 20 years. Similar care and attention are shown to representatives of traditional religions in Azerbaijan. This is confirmed by our brothers participating in the ceremony, leaders of traditional religions, representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, Christian and Jewish communities. We are witnessing advances in all spheres of life in Azerbaijan.
Mr. President has recently approved the Law on amendments to the Law "On the freedom of religion". One of the changes reflected in the Law is a provision on the opening of representative branches of the Caucasus Muslims Office in foreign countries, so that the Azerbaijanis living abroad could cherish and preserve their spiritual values. This proves again that Mr. President attaches great importance to the development of national and spiritual values of Azerbaijanis throughout the world.
Azerbaijan is developing rapidly, and this development manifests itself in spiritual life too. Therefore, the state should revise the laws relating to spiritual values, freedom of religion, take measures to improve the lives of the believers, and it does that. On behalf of the Caucasus Muslims and all believers, I am expressing gratitude to Mr. President for that.
Receiving ambassadors of Muslim countries, Mr. President shared very valuable thoughts on multiculturalism. He said people should be closer to each other, communicate with each other. There must be a dialogue between religions.
Humans were created by the Almighty Allah, and the Koran says: I have created you, talk to each other, learn languages and science, learn each other. Therefore, the policy carried out by Azerbaijan today, the policies of the freedom of conscience, relations between religion and the state, the dialogue between religions and cultures - this is a very important issue that serves the wisdom sent down by Allah. This is a sacred issue, one of the issues mentioned in the Koran.
I would like to give one example. The President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, has recently said in a speech: All our prayers are addressed to the one Creator, we worship the same God. However, the bad deeds of some people, such as the burning of the Koran by a priest, represent disrespect for all religions.
Today we are seeing signs of Islamophobia in certain western states. This is incompatible with universal values. People should respect all religions, all beliefs, including the holy books - the Koran, the Bible and the Torah.
I can say that religious traditions and tolerance in Azerbaijan serve as an example for the whole world. We maintain contact with more than one hundred countries. When we participate in conferences and meetings in foreign countries, there is plenty of talk about tolerance in Azerbaijan, the work in the area of religious freedom.
However, there are forces both at home and abroad that do not take our success. In particular, the forces that support the Armenians, Armenia, the occupiers. Of course, we will not turn back from our path. Our road is one of truth. As a religious leader, I believe that thanks to the determination and wise policy of Mr. President, Insha'Allah, the conflict will be resolved peacefully, our lands will soon be freed from occupation, and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged. May God bless their souls.
We are very pleased to see you at this ceremony. There are also representatives of the Caucasus Muslims Office in Georgia, Derbent, Makhachkala here. I can say that Azerbaijan has become a spiritual center. This is the result of the excellent attitude of our President, leaders of our state to religious values.
On the way here you saw an unfinished building. I am inviting Mr. President together with his family to the opening of this building on the eve of the Ramadan holiday next year. I do hope, Insha'Allah, that Allah will help us in this matter, and the Karabakh problem will also be resolved by then.
Let me welcome you once again and wish you good health. May Allah rest the souls of all the martyrs, those who have left this world. May the soul of my friend and brother, our great leader Heydar Aliyev rejoice. On these sacred days the souls of the dead feel happy. May the Almighty rest the souls of all mothers. I pray to the Almighty to rest the soul of Mrs. Zarifa Aliyeva. I pray to the Almighty to send happiness to our world. As a religious figure, I can only pray for that and hope that Azerbaijan will flourish. I want Azerbaijan to develop, to become one of the most important and advanced countries in the world under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.
I wish you good health. I want to thank you for attending this ceremony, thus honoring our Iftar. May the Almighty grant all your wishes. Thank you very much.
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The Head of the Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexander, said there was tolerance in Azerbaijan, that relations between the state and religion were of exemplary nature. He said our country was making a significant contribution to the interreligious dialogue. Speaking about Azerbaijan’s important achievements in political and economic spheres, Father Alexander noted that the Orthodox population of the country was treated with great respect and was surrounded with care and attention. The Head of the Baku and Caspian Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church wished the people of Azerbaijan well-being and prosperity.
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The Chairman of the Community of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan, Semen Ikhiilov, said there were historically friendly relations between Azerbaijanis and the Jews. He noted that all nations living in Azerbaijan live like one happy family and that Jews have never experienced anti-Semitism. S. Ikhiilov said that the community of Mountain Jews was in favor of a settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh within the territorial integrity of our country.
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The Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan, Vladimir Fakete, stressed that the policy of great leader Heydar Aliyev, which provides for tolerance in our country today, is being successfully continued, and expressed his deep gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev. Vladimir Fekete said that 2011 was a landmark year for the relations between Azerbaijan and the Vatican. He stressed that the cooperation agreement signed between the sides was an important step in bilateral relations.
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The Chairman of the Alban-Udi Christian community, Robert Mobili, passed on greetings from Azerbaijan’s Udi community to the ceremony participants. He noted that the Udi, who have been living in Azerbaijan in peace and tranquility for millennia and are known in the world as a phenomenal ethnic group, have preserved their religious and spiritual values. Robert Mobili said that the Nij village is recognized today as one of the most beautiful places of tolerance, and the activities conducted there by the head of state and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation are a good example of our country's respect for the Udi community.
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President Ilham Aliyev addressed the Iftar ceremony.
Your Holiness Sheikh!
Dear religious figures!
Our meetings in the holy month of Ramadan have already become a wonderful tradition. This tradition has a great history. The foundation of this tradition was laid by great leader Heydar Aliyev and His Holiness Sheikh. Heydar Aliyev's policy is still living and successfully continuing in Azerbaijan in all areas today. In essence, as is the case in all other areas, the foundation of relations between religion and the state was laid in the years of our independence.
Today, relations between religion and the state in Azerbaijan are at a very high level, and I believe that they can be cited as an example on a global scale. In the same way as all the spheres are developing in Azerbaijan, positive trends are evident in this area too. This further strengthens our country. The strength of a country is determined not only by natural or financial resources. The strength of each country is in comprehensive development. The strength of Azerbaijan lies in the fact that representatives of all nations and religions live in peace here. They live in the atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood. This is our strength. Therefore, a long-term, successful and sustainable development of our country is beyond doubt. We will only move forward successfully, solve the problems facing the country and achieve comprehensive development of Azerbaijan.
Ramadan is a holy month. The people of Azerbaijan have cherished these sacred feelings in their hearts for centuries. But our independence is still very young. This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of it and, as an independent state and a free nation, we are extensively celebrating this dear religious holiday.
Representatives of all faiths feel comfortable in Azerbaijan. Respect for the Islamic culture and Islamic religion goes hand in hand with respect for all other religions in Azerbaijan. Someone respecting his religion should also respect others. This is already an established approach in Azerbaijan. Religious leaders have talked about tolerance in Azerbaijan. This is already a reality, and in some cases our experience is studied worldwide. I am very pleased that tolerance, religious tolerance are already well-established concepts in Azerbaijan. This is not just a slogan, but a way of life.
The relationship between religion and the state in Azerbaijan is well manifested through the attitude towards religious monuments. The Azerbaijani state is building and restoring not only the mosques and other Islamic sites. We are also renovating and building temples belonging to other religions. This has been mentioned here, and I am very glad that leaders of various religions have expressed a common opinion. It shows that work in this area in Azerbaijan is at a very high level. Of course, this means that there is a correct state policy, that it has a foundation, but at the same time this is a political and public order of society. This is our way of life. This is our world outlook. This is how we live and, by living so, prove to ourselves, to the region and to the world that multiculturalism does exist. Multiculturalism is a relatively new concept. In essence, it means coexistence of people of different cultures and religions. This concept has existed in Azerbaijan for centuries, it exists and is getting stronger today. The people of Azerbaijan have lived in different socio-political systems at different times. Despite this, these positive trends have always strengthened, and most importantly in the years of independence. These are the factors enhancing our successful development.
At the same time, the contribution of His Holiness Sheikh to elevating the relationship between religion and the state to a high level is enormous. His Holiness Sheikh is a religious leader enjoying great authority both in and outside Azerbaijan. As His Holiness Sheikh has noted, Azerbaijan has already hosted a number of prestigious international events on interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Azerbaijan has become an international venue for interreligious and intercultural dialogue. This is not only due to our geographical position or the fact that representatives of different religions have lived like one family in Azerbaijan for centuries.
The international authority of His Holiness Sheikh is playing a role in this. I have repeatedly exchanged views with my colleagues, heads of state and government on the activities of His Holiness. I am very pleased that our esteemed Sheikh is greatly respected in the world. Very important steps are taken on his initiative to strengthen the interreligious dialogue both on the international arena and in the Caucasus. International events are held, religious leaders from neighboring regions occasionally come to Azerbaijan. I want to recall a visit by the muftis of North Caucasian republics of Russia. It was a very successful visit. This brings us even closer together, and these factors are very important to peace, stability and tolerance in the Caucasus.
The traditional Iftar organized on the initiative of His Holiness Sheikh also has one goal: to further unite us, Azerbaijani society, to ensure that representatives of all ethnicities and faiths living in Azerbaijan could hear the right words from both the political and religious leaders. These words, I repeat, are not just an expression of an intent. These words are based on concrete actions, on great work. The successes Azerbaijan has made in 20 years, in the years of independence, have been possible also thanks to this great atmosphere.
Our country is developing. This is already a reality. Anyone visiting Azerbaijan, Baku and the districts, if he is objective and unbiased, cannot deny this development. It makes us very happy, inspires us even more and encourages for further steps. We want to make our country even stronger.
Today, our positions in the region are quite strong. Azerbaijan’s influence opportunities are expanding. These opportunities are and will be serving to strengthen cooperation and neighborliness in the region. Our strengthening is positive for the region. Azerbaijan is playing a stabilizing role in the region, and it will gradually increase. We have all the freedoms. We are proud to say that Azerbaijan has all the freedoms, the freedom of religion. The biggest asset is the freedom of religion, conscience, speech, thought, political activity and the press. All these freedoms are available in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani people is a free people. We have gained independence, have been living as an independent country for 20 years. At the same time, the development of democracy in Azerbaijan has also come a long way. There are all the freedoms today, and the people of Azerbaijan are seeing the fruits of that. A liberal economic policy is impossible without political reform. And political reform is impossible without reforms in the religious sphere. So all these directions complement each other and precondition our successful development.
In 20 years Azerbaijan has demonstrated to both its own citizens and the world that we can live as an independent state, a free nation, and a clear demonstration of that is our well-being and economic indicators that have been improving from year to year.
All the problems facing the country are being resolved. As you know, there are specific programs and execution mechanisms in every field. These programs are being implemented, our country is successfully developing. Creative and landscaping work is under way throughout the country. Major infrastructure projects are being implemented. Our districts are experiencing unprecedented revival and development. This is a reality. This has been done by us, all this work has been possible thanks to the work and talent of the Azerbaijani people and stability in the country.
We remember the first years of our independence too well. The situation in Azerbaijan was very difficult at the time. There was an economic, political and military crisis, civil strife, civil war, Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, which resulted in a complete paralysis of the economy. We remember those years. We have managed to overcome that great challenge. Azerbaijan's independence was called into question. After the return of great leader Heydar Aliyev to leadership at the request of the Azerbaijani people, an end was put to all the negative trends, and the country entered a period of development.
Today we see this development. Of course, this is very gratifying. But at the same time, we should not be complacent with our successes. A lot still remains to be done - in the economic, social and all other areas. Of course, the most important problem facing the country is the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Our lands are under occupation. Unfortunately, this injustice has been ongoing for many years in spite of the fact that all norms of international law and the historical truth are on our side. We all know that Nagorno-Karabakh is native Azerbaijani land. Political relations and political weight in the region also confirm Azerbaijan’s superiority. We have economic and military superiority. We are superior to Armenia in all respects. Religious leaders have noted here that our cause is just. We did not seize anyone’s lands, we have no claims on someone else’s lands although the present-day Armenia was established on historically Azerbaijani territories. We want to restore our territorial integrity.
We have a right to that. We are strong enough. We simply want this issue to be resolved without bloodshed, peacefully, in a negotiated manner. But at the same time, we will not step back from our principled position. Our position, I repeat, is based both on historical truth and international law. Nagorno-Karabakh is historical and ancestral Azerbaijani land. This is Azerbaijani land also from a legal standpoint. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is recognized around the world. Azerbaijanis territorial integrity, including Nagorno-Karabakh, must be restored.
There are autonomies in the world, in Europe and other regions. There is a good experience of autonomies. We have carefully studied this issue and are ready to apply the experience existing in Europe, in leading countries, but within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has never been and never will be the subject of negotiations. I have no doubt that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity will be restored.
I want to reiterate that underlying this confidence are many factors. First is international law, second is our political weight, third is economic potential, fourth is our successful future, fifth is demographics. The Armenian leadership should finally understand that there is a demographic factor, and this factor is already showing itself. I am sure that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be resolved. But let them at least think what these demographic trends will lead to in five, 10 and 15 years. Thank God, the population of Azerbaijan is growing. Early last year, a nine millionth citizen of Azerbaijan was born, and our population already exceeds 9,160,000 people. By contrast, Armenian population, economic potential and natural resources are shrinking. This list goes on. Azerbaijan’s superiority in any area is beyond doubt. Under such circumstances it will be impossible to keep this conflict in a "frozen" state. It is encouraging that the statements by the heads of countries dealing with this issue and providing mediation clearly say that the status quo should be changed. The status quo is intolerable and must be changed. Most of all this is in the interests of the Azerbaijani side, because it is our ancestral land that is under occupation. We want the citizens of Azerbaijan to return to these lands soon and Azerbaijan's sovereignty to be restored.
Dear friends! I want to express my satisfaction with the fact that I am next to you in this holy month of Ramadan. I want to say again that these meetings have a great meaning. This tradition will live on. I am confident that the new residency His Holiness Sheikh has shown today will be ready by the next holiday. The current residency is also pleasing to the eye but the building under construction is, of course, even more grand and majestic. But regardless of the place, most important is the sincerity between us, in society, among representatives of all nations living in Azerbaijan and religions. This sincerity is there, and it is up to us to preserve and strengthen this great atmosphere, increase the power of our country and lead it forward. In this holy month let me wish you and all the people of Azerbaijan health and happiness.
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Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh thanked President Ilham Aliyev for the kind words.
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Then the Iftar was served.