Saturday, October 30, 2010

Azerbaijan's Religiosity

Politicians in Azerbaijan are displaying more religion:
"Although Azerbaijan prides itself on being a secular country where religion and politics are separate, candidates increasingly use religious rhetoric to gain voters’ sympathy and support. In a live TV debate, candidates from one constituency have started arguing over whom the local religious wise man had supported, pointing out to the various pictures taken and telephone conversations held with him. It was obvious that the support of this local clergyman could be a deciding factor in that particular district (Azerbaijan Public TV, October 18). Candidates from another district, located in the center of Baku, have also appealed to religious rhetoric, with one candidate pointing out that he has translated the Koran and another candidate calling her voters 'religious people' thus promising them justice and honesty. A candidate from Barda district has even openly accused his opponent, the current Member of Parliament (MP), Zahid Oruc, of being an 'infidel,' thus trying to discredit him in the eyes of voters (Azertaj News Agency, October 15)...

"Islam’s role in the political life of the country today differs significantly from that of 1990’s, when Islamic parties were established and attempted to openly compete in elections. At that time, the government took decisive measures to break them up and arrest those politicians, who attempted to use religion for political purposes. Today, religion seems to be coming more from the grassroots level, thus pushing the secular politicians to speak with voters in 'their language'."

I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with political Islam as understood in the Middle East and South Asia, and everything to do with the revival of religion in general in the former Soviet Union as the post-communist generation discovers its pre-communist roots. I also suspect the "wise man" in the first paragraph refers to a leader connected with Sufism, broadly defined, which is something almost invariably opposed by Middle Eastern and South Asian Islamists.



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