Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the Iftar ceremony on the occasion of holy month of Ramadan
20 june 2017, 20:55
Your Eminence dear Sheikh,
Dear religious figures,
Ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I want to cordially congratulate you and all the Azerbaijani people on the upcoming Ramadan holiday. I wish all the Azerbaijani people peace, prosperity and continued success.
By tradition, we are gathered at His Eminence Sheikh’s place for the Iftar ceremony in the blessed month of Ramadan. This tradition lives and should live on. Its foundation was laid by great leader Heydar Aliyev and His Eminence Sheikh.
Great leader Heydar Aliyev is the founding father of the Azerbaijani state. His ascent to power put Azerbaijan on the path of development. We all note with regret that the great leader did not lead Azerbaijan in the first years of independence. If he had been, he would have saved our people and state from great troubles. Heydar Aliyev defined and implemented the main development strategy of our country in all areas. The great leader played a special role in the management of relations between the state and religion. I should also note that, as was the case in all other spheres, there was no single policy in the area of religious issues before 1993. This gap, of course, was fraught with huge risks. Since 1993, a consistent policy has been formed in all areas – foreign policy, domestic policy, economy, security, and the relations between the state and religion. The key principles of this policy are still relevant today. The present-day Azerbaijan develops and will develop on this solid basis.
The great leader and His Eminence Sheikh have exemplified the organization of traditional Iftar ceremonies. These traditional Iftar ceremonies are actually part of the relations between religion and the state. Today I would like to emphasize the special role of His Eminence Sheikh in this. His Eminence Sheikh enjoys great authority in Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, the post-Soviet space, and indeed on a global scale. I know that His Eminence Sheikh enjoys great respect among religious leaders of the world. The Sheikh strengthens the authority of our country in the international arena, promotes our country, represents Azerbaijan as a modern country attached to its religious, national roots and, at the same time, as a tolerant country open to the world. Within the framework of the "Year of Islamic Solidarity" both in the country and abroad, numerous events have been and will be held under the leadership of His Eminence Sheikh. This will once again showcase Azerbaijan as a developing, modern and dynamic country in the world.
His Eminence Sheikh and I have friendly relations. These relations are important for us and for the country. We are showing an example of how relations between the state and religion should be built. Thanks to the successes achieved in this field, Azerbaijan can become an example for many countries. The state does not interfere in religious matters; on the contrary, it tries to help. The historical mosques, religious monuments, as well as churches and synagogues, built and repaired by the state serve as a clear proof of this. Religion does not interfere in the affairs of the state and politics either. I believe that this is also an exemplary approach. At the same time, the state and religion are together, because we have one goal. We want our country to become even stronger, the Azerbaijani people to live even better and our dynamic development to be long-term and sustainable. Therefore, the fact that the relations between religion and the state rest on a sound basis is our great asset. Let me say again – I think that this example is very attractive for a number of countries. It is no coincidence that foreign visitors to Azerbaijan, including religious leaders, study our experience, are interested in it and, of course, always express respect when seeing Azerbaijani realities.
Over the period that has passed since the previous Ramadan, dynamic development in Azerbaijan has continued and many important events have taken place. Among them I want to especially note the visit of the Pope to Azerbaijan. The visit of the Pope serves as a manifestation of the attitude of the Holy See to Azerbaijan. I should also note that Azerbaijan is one of the first Muslim countries visited by the Pope. The statements he made during the visit represent a high assessment of interreligious relations in Azerbaijan. Of course, we, the people living in Azerbaijan and conducting this policy, know that this is our great asset. At the same time, the whole world knows about it and this is acknowledged by authoritative personalities of the planet.
I should also note that the Pope met with leaders of all traditional religious communities of Azerbaijan at the Heydar Mosque. This meeting is also of tremendous symbolic significance, because the meeting with the Pope was attended by other leaders of religious communities present here today. This was another message to the world about how interreligious relations should be managed. The Azerbaijani public is well aware of the fact that all religious communities actively participate in religious festivals and ceremonies. Representatives of all religions not only participate, but also address the audience at new and rebuilt historic mosques. I believe that this is also a unique experience on a global scale which has been initiated by Azerbaijan.
The initiatives put forward by Azerbaijan in many spheres bring novelty, dynamics and a new approach. Breaking stereotypes, we propose a new format of behavior in many areas, including religious issues. It is no coincidence that the work carried out in Azerbaijan in this field and the successes we have achieved are appreciated by practically all leading international organizations. I should also note that our initiatives, events and forums we have launched are subsequently supported by international organizations. As an example, I can cite the Fourth Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held this year. We put forward this Forum as an initiative. Today, its organizers are the leading international organizations of the world - UNESCO, ISESCO, the Council of Europe, the World Tourism Organization, etc. The fact that such prestigious events are held in Azerbaijan demonstrates our policy and intentions. This also shows to the whole world that there is a country on the planet that is the center of multiculturalism. This country is Azerbaijan.
In 2008, the "Baku process" was launched on our initiative. The "Baku process" is praised from the highest international platforms. I can say that the "Baku process" is the leading direction on a global scale. Interreligious relations are addressed within the framework of this process. We started this work very actively about 10 years ago. At that time, there were no threats and risks existing today. These risks have appeared in the last five to six years. Unfortunately, there are many issues of concern in the Muslim world, in Europe and elsewhere. But when we drew attention to this issue and put forward these initiatives, the vast majority of such threats did not exist. So I believe that the steps taken in a timely manner play a positive role in interreligious relations and inter-civilizational issues. Azerbaijan is recognized as an exemplary country in this field today.
I should also note that the Azerbaijani state rests on very strong national values. Islamic values are an integral part of our national values. So we have very strong foundations. These are our national values, which are above all for us. We try to make sure that the younger generation grows up and is brought up in the national spirit. National values should always be our top priority.
Along with this, Azerbaijan is a secular and modern state open to the world. There is no radicalism or fundamentalism in Azerbaijan. There is no internal source of threat. The reason for this is not only the administrative steps we are taking. The reason for this is the atmosphere in our society. Where do radicalism and terrorism come to life? In countries where there is no literacy, where social justice is disrupted, and where there is pervasive injustice and poverty. Therefore, the best guarantee against radicalism is social justice, material well-being, literacy and correct policies. Where there are such factors, there is no basis for radicalism. True, there can be interference from the outside. However, Azerbaijan is quite a strong state taking measures against such interference and ensuring a peaceful life of the Azerbaijani people.
This is what today's Azerbaijan is like. I have repeatedly said this before and I want to say it again today: all our successes are underpinned by a thought-out policy. We have made great strides in all directions. It was also noted here today that Azerbaijan achieved great success in the Games of Islamic Solidarity and finished first in team standings. This is a great victory. In the European Games held two years ago, Azerbaijan finished second among all European countries. The economic performance of the five months of this year is also very encouraging and positive. Our non-oil economy grew by more than 2 per cent. The non-oil industry has grown by almost 4 per cent. Agriculture has increased by 2 per cent. Exports have increased by 44 per cent and imports have dropped by about 17 per cent. All this has been possible thanks to economic reforms and thought-out policies.
As for the solution of foreign policy issues, Azerbaijan enjoys so much authority on a global scale today that the number of countries wishing to cooperate with us is always on the increase. We have built equal relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect. We have been able to establish excellent relations with European, Muslim and other countries. Azerbaijan plays and will continue to play an irreplaceable role – I am saying this with absolute determination – in the development of the dialogue between civilizations. It is a kind of responsibility for us. At the same time, it is necessary for us. We want inter-religious relations in Azerbaijan to stay the way they are, for representatives of all religions and nationalities to live in Azerbaijan line one family, which is the case today. This is our policy. I have said this before and I want to say again that respect for one's own people and religion begins with respect for another religion and people. This is our policy which the Azerbaijani public fully approves and supports. It is thanks to this that we see and celebrate today's excellent results.
A very significant event has occurred in the history of our people and state recently. A new settlement was opened in the village of Jojug Marjanli, which was liberated from occupation. The 50 houses, a school, a road and the entire infrastructure built there in a matter of two months demonstrate both our strength and policy. This shows that we will restore all the territories liberated from occupation in a short period of time. Life will return to these territories and the Azerbaijani flag will be raised there – just as life returns to the lands liberated from occupation in Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Aghdara districts today, the Azerbaijani flag flies on these lands and constructive work is under way.
Jojug Marjanli is a testament to Armenian fascism. This village was under occupation for only three to four months. There was not a single building left there. Armenian vandals destroyed all houses. We have restored this village in two months and the issue of building another 100 houses will be resolved in the near future. A mosque, which is an analogue of the Shusha mosque, has been constructed in Jojug Marjanli. This is also of great historical significance. Jojug Marjanli and other territories are our ancestral lands. We are creating a new life in these lands.
This shows that no-one can ever break the will of the Azerbaijani people. We have restored the Armenian church in Baku and are protecting it. The Armenians have destroyed our mosques in the occupied lands. The Govharaga Mosque, the analogue of which has been built in Jojug Marjanli, lies in ruins. A building can be destroyed, but the enemy must know that the destroyed mosques live in our hearts. We have built these mosques in our hearts. Immediately after the liberation of these lands from occupation, within two months, a beautiful mosque was built there. This is of immense historical significance. I am sure that we will return to all the occupied lands, Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity and such wonderful Iftar ceremonies will be held on these lands as well, Inshallah.
Dear friends, my warm greetings to all of you again, and I congratulate you on the upcoming holiday. Thank you.