Official: Azerbaijani has no anti-Semitism

Elshad Iskandarov, a Azerbaijani official, claims that Azerbaijan has zero anti-Semitism.

Kiev (R370) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kiev (R370)
(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 community.”
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 answer.
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 fabric.”
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 living.”