Bahai News - Azeri religions committee head says religious communities to reregister at end July

Azeri religions committee head says religious communities to reregister at end July

Excerpt form Z. Rasulzada, R. Orucov report by Azerbaijani newspaper Ekho on 11 July entitled "There will be news after 20 July"

Rafiq Aliyev, the head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Structures, pledges to issue new registration order by then

The newly-established State Committee for Work with Religious Structures is just beginning to operate. We should recall that the establishment of this structure was preceded by serious concern by many high-ranking officials at the growing influence of different kinds of religious sects which propagandize non-traditional creeds.

These fears were also aired at recent meetings of the ruling political elite of Azerbaijan after which the idea appeared to form a responsible structure to deal with the coordination of the activities of different religious organizations and make them conform with the country's legislation.

We asked the chairman of the newly-established state committee, Prof Rafiq Aliyev, to tell us something about his first steps.

[Correspondents] Will the committee coordinate its activities with the Board of Muslims of the Caucasus?

[Rafiq Aliyev] We shall coordinate our efforts with all religious organizations, including the Board of Muslims of the Caucasus [BMC]. This will relate mainly to those religious communities which are subordinate to the BMC.

[Correspondents] How will you regulate the activities of the non-traditional religious organizations?

[Rafiq Aliyev] Well, our committee will actively work with these communities. They are more than 1,000 of them in Azerbaijan - Hare Krishna followers, Baha'is and other religious trends which do not the traditional religious pattern. Any religious community, be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish, should be anchored in a structure of a definitive religious centre which controls their activities. For example, the branch of the Russian Orthodox Church>, operating in Azerbaijan, is subordinate to the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Aleksiy II, and Azerbaijani law. This also relates to other religious communities. We shall work with those organizations which respect our law and do not overstep its framework and whose activities do not prevent others from leading a normal life.

[Correspondents] Is there evidence that people have been forcibly drawn into religious sects?

[Rafiq Aliyev] Certainly, there are such cases. However, people were not taken by the arm and led forcibly into a sect, and ordered to become a Baha'i or Adventist. Simply, people are tempted, some are given money or other things. We also believe that it is impossible to attract children under 18 into these sects.

[Correspondents] The mass media have recently been inflating stories about Adventists and their charity organization ADRA [Adventist Development and Relief Agency]. Does your committee intend to look into this?

[Rafiq Aliyev] As far as the ADRA philanthropic organization is concerned, the State Committee for Refugees is busy with its activities and it has state registration. But as far as the so-called Seventh-Day Adventists are concerned, as a religious community, we shall certainly deal with their activities.

What will we do? First we shall reregister them and during this process we shall study their founding documents very attentively.

[Passage omitted: committee will ask their main office for information]

[Correspondents] The growth of Wahhabi influence in Azerbaijan is also interesting.

[Rafiq Aliyev] I can only say that Wahhabism does not exist as a trend in Islam. There are no religious communities in Azerbaijan which include the spreading of the doctrine of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in their regulations. Wahhabis have spread all over the country and are operating under the aegis of different philanthropic communities and religious trends. Responsibility to assess the legality of their activities lies with the Justice Ministry and the Interior Ministry.

[Passage omitted: law-enforcement bodies spoke about danger of Islamic extremism; president will soon endorse the committee's regulations]

[Correspondents] When will the reregistration of religious organizations begin?

[Rafiq Aliyev] I believe by the end of the month, as soon as the president endorses our regulations, around 20 July. At that time, we shall make public new instructions for registration and reregistration.

[Passage omitted: the committee's headquarters are in the building of the former Press and Information Ministry]


©Copyright 2001, BBC Monitoring Central Asia

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