Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Two Faces of Salafism in Azerbaijan

by Anar Valiyev from The Jamestown Foundation (US: Washington, DC)

It is very unlikely that non-militant Salafis would organize strong political organizations for several reasons. First of all, Salafis worldwide, and in Azerbaijan particularly, believe that Muslims should not engage in Western activities like conventional politics. Secondly, the Azerbaijan government would hardly allow Salafis to get organized at any level. Nevertheless, radical militant Salafis would continue to present a threat to the secular statehood of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the majority of the public and Azerbaijan’s law enforcement agencies do not see much difference between radical and peaceful Salafis. In many cases peaceful adherents of Salafism are oppressed, arrested or forced to shave beards. Such actions and continued oppression could drastically change the situation, leading to peaceful Salafis feeling the need to organize or join radical groups in order to resist police brutality and persecution. That, in turn, could lead to a new wave of opposition between Salafis and government, the outcome of which is hard to predict.

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