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Azerbaijan – Little known bastion of interfaith tolerance

May 20, 2016 - Board of Deputies - Share: Twitter Facebook

Azerbaijan doesn’t always have the best name recognition – indeed it was subject of a sketch at the Eurovision Song Contest where Swedish comedian Sarah Dawn Finer (AKA Lynda Woodruff) repeatedly mispronounced the name of the country. Recent and upcoming events such as the Europe Games and Formula 1 attracted some media attention, but besides those working in the oil and gas industry and human rights NGOs, many would struggle to locate it on a map. However, it may be worth taking a closer look at this Muslim majority country with remarkably low levels of antisemitism and a strong tradition of interfaith co-operation.

At a time when neighbouring Turkey is in turmoil and questioning the place of religion in an avowedly secular state, Azerbaijan appears to sense an opportunity to present itself as a role model. It’s home to the Grand Mufti of the Caucus Allahshukur Pashazadeh, who uniquely represents both Shia and Sunni Muslims in this mostly Shia nation. Touted as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world, Pashazadeh is keen to recount how he and other Muslims have supported numerous initiatives in Jewish and Christian communities in the country. Beyond financial and logistical support, religious services of all flavours are often attended by guests of other faiths in a way that is seen as unremarkable in a country of around 10 million people.

Read more at the Jewish News.