CIP Meets with State Department-Sponsored Azerbaijan Visitors
During the month of Muharrem, in the aftermath of the commemoration of Ashura and the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, Center for Islamic Pluralism Executive Director Stephen Suleyman Schwartz and a CIP researcher on Islamic women's issues met in Washington, DC, with a delegation of four Muslims from Azerbaijan, three of them Shia and one Sunni. The visit was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with the goal of educating foreign Muslims on the situation of Islam in America.
The Azeri visitors were:
Mr. Vidadi Kamil Oglu TAGHIYEV
Mr. Etibar Baxtiyar Oglu GULIYEV
Ms. Durdana Sukur Qizi JAFARLI
Mr. Elshad Pasha Oglu MIRIYEV
The meeting included a detailed discussion of Wahhabism, which the Azeri visitors identified as the biggest threat to the future of the Muslim umma. Azerbaijan is 60 percent or more Shia, but moderate Shia and Sunni leaders are working to ameliorate the division between the traditions. Wahhabi infiltration has increased in the past decade. This is mainly caused by the invasion of nearby Chechnya and Daghestan by Saudi-financed Wahhabis. Baku, the Azeri capital, now includes Wahhabi mosques that exclude Shia worshippers, although in the past Shias and Sunnis typically prayed together.
The Azeri delegation offered continued cooperation between moderate Shia and Sunni clerics as the main option for combating Wahhabi influence.
From the CIP side, the confrontation between Shias and Sunnis in the U.S. was described, specifying that notable exceptions exist, including among Albanians. The Azeris were encouraged to raise their profile and credibility in the U.S. by pressing for full democratization of their country and by aligning firmly against the revival of neo-tsarist Russian imperialism as represented by Vladimir Putin.
On this occasion CIP offered and repeats its salutations to Ahl-ul-Beyt and support for expressions of grief at the remembrance of the terrorist crime of Kerbala. Ya Husayn!