2013. 11. 13.
Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers Intn'l presented the report of Non-Muslim Minorities in Azerbaijan which are based on the key findings of their fact finding mission in the country. The secular nature of the state – meaning the separation of state and religion – is the legal and constitutional pillar of the country where all Azerbaijanis can live in peace and with equal rights whatever their religion is. "Fundamentalist ideas have had no success in Azerbaijan so far but we shall remain vigilant. Antisemitism is non-existent and interreligious peace prevails both inside the Muslim community and among the main historical religions" – concluded the report Willy Fautré.
Elshad Iskandarov, Minister of Religious Affairs highlighted in his speech: "Our society is built on positive secularism, meaning we do not want to abandon the denominations, neither exclude religion from public life. It is not the French type of "laicite", but the perspective of the same proximity to all denominations. One has to respect his neighbour either because he is brother in religion or in humanity".
MEP Inese Vaidere, the EPP Group Coordinator in the Human Rights Subcommittee pointed out on the exhibition opening: “The country’s unique geographical location in the crossroads of Europe and Asia fostered by the government’s determined secular policy of keeping political issues separate from religious organisations has shaped Azerbaijan into a tolerant country where various religious groups live side by side without a fear of being discriminated for what they believe in. Azerbaijani religious tolerance sets a good example for those countries that struggle to accommodate various religious groups”.
László Surján, Hungarian Vice-President of the EP underlined: "In the time of ever-changing ideologies, people tend to determine their identities against the others and sentiments and stereotypes influence their lives. This is especially dangerous when leaders of a country misuse such sentiments in order to gain political capital as in a theocratic country this might lead to the persecution of minority religions and those not holding any beliefs. On the other hand, similar mistakes might happen if a secular state turns into a dictatorship and aims to eliminate religion from all aspects of life, be it the public or the private sphere. We saw the sad results of the latter behaviour in the communist regimes. Theoretically it is easy; however in practice it is most difficult to find the right balance for the co-existence of majority and minority religions and beliefs. I believe that the Azeri model constitutes a role model for the Muslim world. The example might be helpful for the problematic countries of the Arab Spring and might also contribute to fight Islamophobia in the Western countries".