From talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the delegation of ‎Turkey headed by Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, minister on the issues of religion - April 26, 2000‎

Heydar Aliyev: Distinguished minister!

Disitniguished guests!

Welcome to Azerbaijan! I suppose you did much work with the distinguished sheikh and once more rendered your services to the development of contacts between our countries, peoples, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Thank you and I am pleased to receive You.

Last time we met in Nakhichevan. We opened a newly built mosque there with you and did a great job. Now you are here, in Baku. Thank you.

Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz: Distinguished Mr. President, thank you for receiving us and accept my considerations.

We are here for three days. The distinguished sheikhulislam was very kind with us. We thank him too. We had some mosques and we participated at their openings. Today we visited the theology faculty of the Baku State University. As You pointed out, it will strengthen the friendly ties between our countries.

There is no life without morality. We assist the education of the religion and teach people to pray in right manner. We enjoyed great support of your Excellency. That is why, I express my gratitude to You. Thank You once more.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. How many mosques did you open here?

Haji Allahshukur Pasha-zade: Distinguished Mr. President, let me to brief you. These mosques have been built a long time ago. Because of business of Mr. Nuri Yilmaz we could not open them in due time. We went there, prayed and were together with the people, and allowed them to function on legal basis. With the blessings of God the people will worship and pray there.

The positive features of those mosques is that we appointed two people, an imam and an akhund for them. As you know, there are two branches of Islam in Azerbaijan, taking into account the similarity of both of them we took such a step to strengthen the brotherhood. People pray there for you, for our people, for the Turkish people, for strengthening the Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship. It happened in Guba, Gusar districts and in the settlement of Agdash region and Yevlakh district and Mehdiabad settlement.

Heydar Aliyev: In Absheron district?

Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh: Yes, in Absheron. In the places where there were no mosques before. They were in other places, but not legalized. We held openings and legalized them. That is why I thank you once again. Every one of these mosques will be a site of brotherhood and friendship. This is also a symbol of freedom of conscience in Azerbaijan. Churches and other religious temples are built in Azerbaijan as well. We are aware of them.

Mosques are also built and restored, and we use the opportunities given to us in Your term of presidency. That is your high appreciation of the morality. It is worth to note that these mosques serve only friendship and fraternity. With the blessing of God, they will play a consolidating, not dividing role.

Heydar Aliyev: Naturally. Freedom of conscience in Azerbaijan is the result of our achieved independence. You know that we have been deprived of our religion for 70 years. It is naturally that there were no freedom of conscience in our country in the past. But after the achievement of freedom and independence, all kind of rights were ensured in Azerbaijan including freedom of conscience. All this give rise to our country. Because a person must be free and do what he wants. Of course, by legal means.

Every person in the world has his religion. The religion exists since the burth of mankind. That is why one can not deprive anyone from his religion. On the contrary, if a person believes his religion, practices it, he becomes more innocent and does useful works for the society and the state. That is why, it is natural that all these mosques must serve the moral rise of the people. The Holy Quran and our religion demands it, and your works are based on these demands. I am very satisfied with the works which you do.

I say once more, and his Excellency sheikh said right that these mosques will strengthen and develop friendly and fraternal contacts between Turkey and Azerbaijan more.

Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz: Distinguished President, I have one favor. We educate a part of the students after graduating from religious school in Turkey and a part of them study for their master degree. The religion is taught from fourth and fifth class in our country. Islam and Judaism are taught there. We wish that the young graduates of these schools teach religion here. Esttemed sheikhuilslam make great efforts for this. Students need job after finishing their education. They will be imams in the mosques or teach at schools. On Islam, Christianity or Judaism. It would be useful to teach those lessons here as we do.

Haji Allahshukur Pashazadeh: Mr. President, your speech in the meeting with the young people opened a new way for us. Although we had hardships. We prepare books for this sphere. We prepare them at high level. They are based on the religious pillars, love of motherland, flag, nation and martyrdom. We prepare such books to be taught from the second class to make people know about the religion. We want our children to know that they are Muslims from the very childhood. That is why Mr. Yilmaz asks for the favor to teach religion schools of Azerbaijan at school hours or after them. Let Muslims learn Islam, Christians Christianity and the Jews Judaism. Let them to be aware of their religion. Some European missionaries want to make them Christians or reject their religions. We must do so that the people understand their rights. We want them get prepared for them in the future. We ask you this favor. The book is not ready yet, but we work on it.

Heydar Aliyev: Continue your preparations. I shall see it. One thing is important that the student should be aware of the history of the religion. Both the Islam and Christianity. The people are not aware of the religion because of the ban on the religion during the Soviet period. Not only the authorities banned the religion then, but there existed such a belief that the religion is opium for the people. You know what is the opium, don't you?

Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz: Yes, I do.

Heydar Aliyev: Lenin had a slogan that the religion is opium for the people. It had been derived from this word. That is why everything that was connected with the religion was out of our education. But this is our history. This is the history of creation, development and spread of Islam, Christianity, Judaism as well as other religions. A man who wants to know the society, the history of the mankind must be aware of this part of its history. A man who doesn't he cannot know the history wholly. There was such a negative attitude to the religion that it also concerned the worship, prayers and perhaps to those who practiced them in secret. Or they were considered as relicts of the past and supposed that people can live without it.

But I know that the history of the religion is taught in all the countries, including in the West. That is why we must consider it. You may say your opinions. We shall consider them exactly.

Very well. Thank you again. I am very much pleased.

Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz: Thank you very much.

Translated from "Azerbaijan" newspaper, April 27, 2000