05/12/2018, 09.43
AZERBAIJAN
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Baku police raid Sufi mosque

The charges: young people "engaged in illegal religious ceremonies". Religious activities must be approved on a national level. Islam is banned outside the state-funded Muslim Council. Heavy fines for those found involved in illegal religious activities. The role of the Religious Affairs Commission is growing.

Baku (AsiaNews / F18) - Secret services agents, police and religious affairs officers raided and closed down another "illegal" mosque where some young people were "engaged in religious ceremonies", reports the Norwegian NGO for religious freedom, known as Form 18.

On April 23, the Azerbaijani authorities intervened in a joint action against the place of worship located in the district of Qaradag, in Baku. It belongs to the Naqshbandiyya community, one of the most important mystical brotherhoods of Sufism. As it expresses the possibility of direct contact with God, Sufism is viewed with suspicion by Sunnism and has often been persecuted.

At present, the police are investigating the owner. The raid and the closing order follow two similar operations implemented in the Khazar district of the capital, in February. In both cases, the local court fined the religious leaders of the mosques.

In Azerbaijan, Islamic activities outside the Muslim Council, sponsored by the state, are prohibited, even if there is no specific legislation. The government imposes strict controls on "who" can profess their faith and "where": all religious communities must be registered before they can carry out their activities, but some of them receive arbitrary refusals to their registration request. The fines for those involved in "illegal" religious activities are usually around 1,500 manats (740 euros), the equivalent of three months' salary. For those working in rural areas, such a figure has a far more exorbitant financial burden.

Recently, the National Religious Affairs Commission has been growing in importance: in addition to the constant recruitment of new staff, the director Mubariz Qurbanli is one of the 16 officials who joined the Cabinet of Ministers.

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