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Azerbaijan’s Multiculturalism Guarantees Globalization

Muhammad Nashit

Since its inception, the Republic of Azerbaijan has been pursues holistic policies of multiculturalism which guarantees spirits of globalization, peace and harmony.

It has successful model of multiculturalism. Azerbaijan multicultural model is the continuation of peaceful coexistence between ethnic, linguistic and religious groups in its country characterized by nonviolence, respect of human and cultural diversity. It is an effective instrument for building peace and prosperity.

Through successful model of multiculturalism it has revolutionized the concepts of humanity, peaceful co-existence, guarantees of minorities and respect of ethnicity. Its diversified but integrated multiculturalism enables and encourages people, countries and organizations around the globe to take concrete actions to support humanity diversity, dialogue and mutual understanding among different cultures and nations by raising awareness on the strategic importance of multiculturalism.

It is pioneer of multiculturalism in South Caucasus and the world too. Its multiculturalism policy is based on respect of humanity and diversity of cultures because human survival depends on it. Azerbaijan is an ideal hub of human wisdom and modernity. It is an ideal center of connecting human minds, souls and resources in the world.

It is “multi-ethnic” country. The representatives of different ethnic groups and faiths have been living in Azerbaijan throughout centuries in an atmosphere of peace, mutual understanding and dialogue. A spirit of tolerance has always prevailed in Azerbaijan and 2016 was even named as the year of multiculturalism. Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism is based on its ancient history of statehood.

Azerbaijani Constitution ensures religious freedom. Its state support is expressed through material and financial assistance from the budget of the country and its presidential foundation, to dozens of national cultural centres, magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs which are an expression of language minorities.

Clauses 1-2 of Article 18 states that in Azerbaijan religion is separated from the state, all religions are equal, spreading and propaganda of religion, humiliating people’s dignity and contradicting the principles of humanism are prohibited. According to Article 48 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to define his/her attitude to religion, to profess, individually or together with others, any religion or to profess no religion, to express and spread one’s beliefs concerning religion.

Our world is at critical point where human survival is endangered due to increasing incidents of “unilateralism”, polarization of power structure as well as communities, societies, groups and countries, national protections/economic nationalism and above all sever obsession of power. Denial of rule of law and disrespect of international treaties/decrees and laws has already burnt the true spirits of humanity. Multiculturalism is the answer of it and undoubtedly Azerbaijan stands for this holy concept.
Azerbaijan established the first secular democracy in the Muslim world in 1918 and offered women the right to vote in 1919.

Tolerance and multiculturalism in secular Azerbaijan is a style of life for over 9.6 million people living at the crossroad of the East and West, combining traditions and cultures.

Establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) brought further “politicization and democratization” in the country wherein, concepts of equality, free will, and rights of common people and especially minorities were institutionally protected. ADR declared and adopted “declaration of Independence” which reflected its strong political commitment towards democracy, secularism and parliamentary culture and of course multiculturalism. The Members of Parliament were elected from all groups living within Azerbaijani society, regardless of creed or ethnic origin, including Armenians, Russians, Poles, Jews and Germans.

Chessboard of power politics has already spoiled face of humanity which needs to be rediscovered by “multiculturalism/Intercultural dialogue” by dancing among different cultures. It supports globalization and greater socio-economic prosperity, human dignity, security and sustainable development.

Successful “State Policy” of Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism is an ideal example for other countries to follow. It jointly works for achieving an equitable system/policy in the country where privileged class may not be in a position to dictate its terms and conditions against weaker factions of the country especially minorities.

Humanity is scared which should be respected. Human differences are main source of diversity which must be respected. Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism policy is against all kinds of discrimination, prejudices, taboos, bigotries, stigmas and phobias.

We are children of God who makes us equal so everybody must play its part for achieving an equal world for a shared prosperity. Azerbaijan is an ideal country of peace, harmony, and peaceful co-existence for all the faiths, sects and minorities in the country which must be guideline for the rest of world.
Due to rapidly weakening socio-economic prospects in shape of “economic/national protectionism, increasing geo-political uncertainties in terms of “unilateralism” and the last but not the least, rapidly geo-strategic maneuverings in shape of “dividing the world between ours and others” has raised the strategic importance of “multiculturalism” in the world among different cultures, faiths, sects, nationalities, philosophies, civilizations and above all countries.

It is indeed the only way of human survival which increases chances of peaceful co-existence. It is of course first step to achieve “sustainable development”.

Contributory role of faiths, holistic spirits of religions, respect of humanity, significance of sports, education, arts, human based sustainable development, prevention of violent extremism, shunning of policies of exploitations, prejudices, hatred and building trust and cooperation among cultures and civilizations is the strength and real essence of Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism.

Azerbaijan is one of the unique places where different cultures and civilizations meet at the crossroad between the East and the West, the North and the South. At the same time, being a member of both Islamic and European organizations Azerbaijan absorbs the values of both civilizations, thus enabling it to assume a role of genuine bridge. Multiculturalism and was the brainchild of Azerbaijan being presented its visionary President H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev. Under patronage of H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in cooperation with UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations, UN World Tourism Organization, Council of Europe, ISESCO and North-South Center of the Council of Europe pursues rigorously to spread noble spirits of multiculturalism in the region and beyond.

Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism has already played a remarkable role by taking responsibility for delivering the global agenda on the Dialogue among Civilisations adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (November 2001), the UNESCO Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), the Islamic Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which was adopted by ISESCO in 2004, Declaration and Action Plan of the Third Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states, the Council of Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (May 2008), as well as the Baku Declaration for the Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue.

Its policy of multiculturalism has already prioritized its agenda by placing intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity higher on its national policies which is critical for human security.

Human connectivity is the secret of human survival. The world is more and more interconnected but it does not mean that individuals and societies really live together as reveal the exclusions suffered by millions of poor, women, youth, migrants and disenfranchised minorities. Today there is more information, technology and knowledge available than ever before, but adequate human wisdom is still needed to prevent conflicts, to eradicate poverty or to make it possible for all to learn in order to live in harmony in a safe world and Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism is the connecting hub of all kinds of conflicts in the world.

Azerbaijan disseminates values, attitudes and behaviours conducive to dialogue, non-violence and the rapprochement of cultures in line with the principles of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. It upholds strategic importance of “Intercultural Dialogue” among different cultures, civilizations, faiths, sects and philosophies, terming it the only possible way out from all kinds of prejudices, bigotries and enemies.
Azerbaijan’s multiculturalism is based on tolerance, democratic norms, secularism, fair-play, social justice, and above all pure humanity. Azerbaijan has more than 10 million population, living at the crossroad of the East and West, and combining traditions and cultures. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population of the country is Muslims, worshippers of other religions enjoy freedom. Jewish synagogues and Orthodox and Christian churches and other religious centers are functioning freely.

It is all because of domestic interfaith and multicultural harmony, of Azerbaijan which has enabled to protect itself from the triggers of extremism, one of the most dangerous threats of the modern world amid the clashing cultures and religions. Its remarkable success in multiculturalism bases on the full-scale embrace of this openness and tolerance by both government and the society at large which has remained primarily stable for many decades.

In Azerbaijan, the representatives of all religions and nationalities live as a family, in an atmosphere of peace, friendship, tranquility and mutual understanding.

Even, Pope Francis hailed Azerbaijan’s diversity and tolerance. Speaking in Baku, Pope Francis emphasized his particular pleasure “with the cordial relations enjoyed by the Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish communities” in Azerbaijan.

Pope Francis said he was full of admiration for the intricacy and richness” of Azerbaijan’s culture, hailed it as a country that distinguishes itself for its welcome and hospitality and “the gateway between East and West.”
Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism is consisting of strong state policies which intend to engage civil society which can inspire Europe, Africa and of course Middle East about ways to protect minorities without compromising the values of the majority of the population.

Azerbaijan is pursuing different multicultural approaches and policies ranging from advocating for equal respect to various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong.

Its multiculturalism is centred on diversity and cultural uniqueness.
Multiculturalism is a state policy of Azerbaijan and it has become a way of life. It ensures mutual understanding and respect for all identities. Its socio-political context has prompted Azerbaijan to adopt a multicultural-led agenda as a strategic tool of foreign policy. From a historical perspective, representatives of many ethnic and religious groups have lived together with Azerbaijanis since the era of the Safavids’ empire and during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Azerbaijan has more than 649 registered religious communities in its country among which 37 are non-Islamic.

The Catholic community was registered in Azerbaijan in 1999. A special building for the conduction of religious ceremonies was purchased for the community and it became a church in 2000. According to the agreement between the Azerbaijani Government and Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church had been constructed in 2007 in Baku. It is more than 2500 years that the Jews have settled in Azerbaijan, never suffering religious intolerance or discrimination; currently six Jewish religious communities are registered and seven synagogues are functioning. Azerbaijan contributes also to the world heritage.

Restoration of Roman catacombs, Strasbourg Cathedral Church, ancient masterpieces in Versailles (Paris), Capitolini Museum (Roma), Louvre Museum (Paris), Trapezitsa Museum (Bulgaria) etc. by Heydar Aliyev Foundation are typical example of these contributions.

There are dozens of national-cultural centers functioning at present. They include “Commonwealth” society, Russian community, Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Ukrainian community, Kurdish cultural center “Ronai”, Lezgin national center “Samur”, Azerbaijani-Slavic culture center, Tat cultural center, Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Tatar culture society “Tugan-tel”, Tatar cultural center “Yashlyg”, Crimean Tatars society “Crimea”, Georgian community, humanitarian society of Azerbaijani Georgians, Ingiloyan community, Chechen cultural center, “Vatan” society of Akhyska-Turks, “Sona” society of the women of Akhyska-Turks, Talysh cultural center, Avar society, mountain Jews community, European Jews (Ashkenazi) community, Georgian Jews community, Jewish women humanitarian association, German cultural society “Kapelhaus”, Udin cultural center, Polish cultural center “Polonia”, “Mada” International Talysh Association, “Avesta” Talysh Association, Udin “Orain” Cultural Center, “Budug” Cultural Center, Tsakhur Cultural Center. Not to mention the club-based amateur societies, national and state theatres, amateur associations and interest-focused clubs in areas with compact minority populations. The State also supports dozens of magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs which are expression of language minorities.
In recent years Baku has hosted numerous international events, such as the Baku International Humanitarian Forum, the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue (in partnership with UNAOC, UNESCO, UN World Tourism Organization, Council of Europe and ISESCO), the European Games in 2015, the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017, the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (April 25-27, 2016). With the same purpose, the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre was established in 2014, with the mission to preserve ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the country, and to introduce Azerbaijan as a centre of multiculturalism to the world.

Ethnic diversity and respect of different nationalities was and is the real strength and point of unity of the ADR and Republic of Azerbaijan. It has been exercising an incomparable degree of religious tolerance, with synagogues since its inception. Orthodox and Catholic churches have been found alongside mosques which maintained a unique concept of humanity, universality and even globalization.

Historical monuments of all religions are protected by the government of Azerbaijan which provides funds for the restoration of these monuments. Mosques, churches and synagogues are built and renovated in Azerbaijan. One of the oldest mosques in the world situated in Azerbaijan, in the city of Shamakhi, dating from 743, and also one of the oldest Christian churches, an Armenian church from the 12-13 century, is also located in the capital of the country Baku. Orthodox and Catholic churches, synagogues, Zoroastrian temples, are bright examples of Azerbaijan’s multicultural heritage.

Azerbaijan pursues a holistic policy of multiculturalism owing to which it is one of a handful of countries that are members of both the Council of Europe and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In 2008, the Ministers of Culture of Islamic countries were invited to the Baku Forum of Ministers of Culture of Council of Europe member-states. For the first time in history, a link was established between these two institutions. In 2009, Azerbaijan invited ministers from the Council of Ministers to the meeting of Ministers of Culture of Muslim countries in Baku.

Its Baku Process has already hosted various international conferences and forums to showcase its golden principles of multiculturalism.
Azerbaijan has set up an international centre for multiculturalism in 2014, as a concrete effort to promote the values of multiculturalism. Thanks to domestic interfaith and multicultural harmony, Azerbaijan was able to protect itself from the triggers of extremism, one of the most dangerous threats of the modern world amid the clashing cultures and religions.
Azerbaijan makes important contributions to the traditions of tolerance, intercultural and inter-civilization dialogue. The country’s success in multiculturalism relies on the full-scale embrace of this openness and tolerance by both government and the society at large which has remained primarily stable for many decades.

The multinational composition of the Azerbaijani population is its wealth and advantage. H.E. Heydar Aliyev considered multiculturalism policy as part of democratic development. He viewed the protection of the rights and freedoms of national minorities as well as ethnic, cultural and religious values of the people belonging to different religions, in the context of fundamental human rights and freedoms, which are the main principles of democracy.

Most recently, the Azerbaijani concept of intercultural, inter-religious dialogue has been upheld as a model for other countries during a conference held in the Palais de Nations at the UN Office in Geneva as part of a series of events organised under the framework of the Geneva Peace Week. The Conference entitled Preventing Conflicts Through Intercultural Dialogue, The Example of Azerbaijan attracted more than 70 delegates, including numerous Ambassadors, together with representatives of various diplomatic missions, NGOs, research institutions and international organisations.

Since ancient times, Azerbaijan has been inherently tolerant, and multiculturalism is now a state policy. Reflecting this, the Azerbaijani government has organised the Baku International Humanitarian Forums and World Forums on Intercultural Dialogue, which are supported by the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), UNESCO and Council of Europe, amongst other organisations.

The Azerbaijani model of secularism, and its peaceful experience of inter-religious dialogue, must be viewed as a unique and successful model – especially in today’s context of globalisation and global threats to security.
Azerbaijan is one of the cradles of humanity and an example of peaceful coexistence between people of different nationalities and religions. Because of its extraordinary ethno-linguistic and religious richness, Azerbaijan is internationally recognized as one of the most heterogeneous social realities in the world. Azerbaijan belongs to the wider Caucasus region, one of the oldest and most culturally complex areas of the world. It is located between two totally different realities: the East and the Eurasian steppes inhabited by nomadic tribes.

Religious peaceful coexistence is also guaranteed at political level. The Constitution of Azerbaijan, one of the most advanced of the entire Islamic world, clearly separates religion from the state and all religions can be openly professed.

Azerbaijan is internationally recognized as a secular republic and is globally celebrated as a successful model for multi-faith and multicultural engagement. It is also an international champion, alongside the U.S. and other allies, in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Over 30,000 Armenian Christians live peacefully in Baku, which boasts a grand Armenian Church, completely renovated and perfectly preserved by the Azerbaijan’s government. To promote dialogue between different cultures and religions, the government strongly trusts the importance of education, not only as a useful sector to pursue economic diversification but even as the best channel to spread knowledge about the other, thus reducing fear of what is unknown.

The government of Azerbaijan has promoted tolerance from the earliest time and has always rejected any form of radicalism or extremism. The government constantly tries to do its best to make the world a better place encouraging peace between people of different nationalities and religions.

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