(photo credit: REUTERS)
KIEV – Azerbaijan has a “zero anti-Semitism rate,” boasted Elshad Iskandarov,
the chairman of the Muslim nation’s State Committee for Religious Organizations,
during a speech in Kiev on Tuesday.
According to the US State
Department’s 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights, released last Friday, “there
were no credible reports of anti-Semitic acts against the country’s Jewish
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan, which is
located on Iran’s northern border. Azerbaijan maintains relations with both
Tehran and Jerusalem.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post following his
remarks at the opening session of the Kiev Interfaith Forum, an annual gathering
of religious leaders convened by Ukrainian MP and Jewish communal leader
Oleksandr Feldman, Iskandarov said that “if you are looking for a universal
recipe” for combating anti- Semitism, he doubted that he could provide an
Tolerance for Jews grew organically in his country, he said, and
was not the result of government policy.
Iskandarov gave several reasons
for the tolerance shown toward Jews.
“Historically, the Sufi
interpretation of Islam developed in Azerbaijan which recognizes closeness to
Judaism as part of the Abrahamic family of” religions, he said. Moreover, “even
if you don’t consider religious or ethnic [facets] of tolerance, hospitality is
one of the key characteristics” of the local “social and cultural
Throughout history, Azerbaijan has “been going through hard
times at the hands of different empires who wanted to control and capture this
strategic piece of land,” Iskandarov said. As a result, “our attitude toward
peoples who were under constant persecution is a kind of kinship. We feel
spiritual and historical closeness.
“That’s why, for example, regardless
of the form of political regime in Azerbaijan, Jews enjoyed very comfortable