Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is dead? Not quite yet. (Re­cal­i­brate ex­pec­ta­tions and travel be­yond Europe)

The Diplomatic Insight - - News - Alessio Stilo of in­ter­me­di­ate bod­ies (civil so­ci­ety, uni­ver­si­ties, think tanks).

Mul­ti­cul­tural approaches and poli­cies vary widely all over the world, rang­ing from the ad­vo­cacy of equal re­spect to the var­i­ous cul­tures in a so­ci­ety, to a pol­icy of pro­mot­ing the main­te­nance of cul­tural di­ver­sity, to poli­cies in which peo­ple of var­i­ous eth­nic and re­li­gious groups are they be­long. Two dif­fer­ent strate­gies, as re­cently pointed out by Ms. Camilla Hab­s­burg-Lothrin­gen, have been de­vel­oped through dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment poli­cies and strate­gies: The and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween dif­fer­ent cul­tures. The sec­ond one, co­hab­i­ta­tive multi-culti does cen­ter it­self on di­ver­sity and cul­tural unique­ness; it sees cul­tural isolation as a pro­tec­tion of unique­ness of the lo­cal cul­ture of a nation or area and also a con­tri­bu­tion to global cul­tural di­ver­sity. A sort of “third way” be­tween the two above-men­tioned strate­gies has been tra­di­tioned and fur­ther en­hanced by core Asian coun­ties, e.g. Azer­bai­jan, where state pol­icy has been ac­com­pa­nied, in a com­ple­men­tary way, to a cer­tain ac­tivism Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism is a state pol­icy of Azer­bai­jan and it has be­come a way of life of the repub­lic en­sur­ing mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and re­spect for all iden­ti­ties. The year 2016 has been de­clared the Year of Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism in Azer­bai­jan, as stated by Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev on Jan­uary 10. This de­ci­sion was made tak­ing into ac­count the fact that Azer­bai­jan brings an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the tra­di­tions of tol­er­ance and in­ter­civ­i­liza­tion dia­logue. Its pe­cu­liar lo­ca­tion be­tween East­ern Europe and West­ern Asia and its so­ciopo­lit­i­cal con­text – where peo­ple of var­i­ous re­li­gions and eth­nic­i­ties have lived to­gether in mu­tual re­spect – have al­lowed Azer­bai­jan to adopt a mul­ti­cul­tural-led agenda as a strate­gic tool of for­eign pol­icy. De­spite chal­lenges due to the in­sta­bil­ity of the area and con­trol of Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku has made an ef­fort to cre­ate and fos­ter the nec­es­sary po­lit­i­cal and so­cial con­di­tions for de­vel­op­ing and strength­en­ing the coun­try’s tra­di­tions of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and tol­er­ance. From a his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of many eth­nic and re­li­gious groups have lived to­gether with Azer­bai­ja­nis since the era of the Safavids’ em­pire and dur­ing the XIX-XX cen­turies, in­clud­ing the pe­riod of the Azer­bai­jan Demo­cratic Repub­lic in­cor­po­rated into the Soviet Union. sec­u­lar democ­racy in the Mus­lim world in 1918 and of­fered women the right to vote in 1919, acts as a model for peace­ful co­ex­is­tence of mem­bers of dif­fer­ent cul­tures. It hosts one of the old­est mosques in the world, in the city of Shamakhi, dat­ing from 743, and also one of the old­est Chris­tian churches, an Ar­me­nian church from the 12-13 cen­tury. Not to men­tion one of the old­est churches in the Cau­ca­sus near the city of Sheki – the Church of Cau­casian not far from Baku. Azer­bai­jan has been in­hab­ited by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions and cul­tures through­out his­tory, demon­strat­ing a deep her­itage of co­ex­is­tence among dif­fer­ent re­li­gions. In­deed, cur­rently there are more than 649 reg­is­tered re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties in the Repub­lic of Azer­bai­jan, among which 37 are non-Is­lamic. It has 13 func­tion­ing churches. The build­ing of the Jen Mironosets Church (built by Hadji Zey­nal­ab­din Tagiyev in 1907) was granted to the Rus­sian Ortho­dox Church in 1991. Aleksi II, Pa­tri­arch of Moscow and all Rus’, who was on a visit in Azer­bai­jan in May 2001, granted the sta­tus of church to this tem­ple. Cur­rently there are three Rus­sian Ortho­dox Churches in Baku, one in Gandja and one in Khachmaz. The Catholic com­mu­nity was

reg­is­tered in Azer­bai­jan in 1999. A spe­cial build­ing for the con­duc­tion of re­li­gious cer­e­monies was pur­chased for the com­mu­nity and it be­came a church in 2000. Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment be­tween the Azer­bai­jani Gov­ern­ment and Vat­i­can, the Ro­man Catholic Church has been con­structed in 2007 in Baku. It is more than 2500 years that the Jews have set­tled in Azer­bai­jan, never suf­fer­ing re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance or dis­crim­i­na­tion; cur­rently six Jewish re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties are reg­is­tered and seven syn­a­gogues are func­tion­ing. Azer­bai­jan con­trib­utes also to the world her­itage. Restora­tion of Ro­man cat­a­combs, Stras­bourg Cathe­dral Church, an­cient mas­ter­pieces in Ver­sailles (Paris), Capi­tolini Mu­seum (Roma), Lou­vre Mu­seum (Paris), Trapez­itsa Mu­seum (Bul­garia) etc. by Hey­dar Aliyev Foun­da­tion are typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of th­ese con­tri­bu­tion. Devel­op­ment of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and tol­er­ance at the level of State pol­icy in Azer­bai­jan is based on an­cient his­tory of state­hood of the coun­try and on devel­op­ment of th­ese tra­di­tions. Nowa­days, thanks to ef­forts of the gov­ern­ment, this po­lit­i­cal be­hav­ior has ac­quired a form of ide­ol­ogy of state­hood and po­lit­i­cal prac­tice (state pol­icy), whereas the in rel­e­vant clauses of ar­ti­cles of the Con­sti­tu­tion, le­gal acts, de­crees and or­ders. Re­gard­ing one of the facets of this con­cep­tion – re­li­gious free­dom – it is also worth not­ing that ar­ti­cle 48 of Azer­bai­jani Con­sti­tu­tion en­sures the lib­erty of wor­ship, to choose any faith, or to not prac­tice any re­li­gion, and to ex­press one’s view on the re­li­gion. More­over, the law of the Repub­lic of Azer­bai­jan (1992) “On free­dom of faith” en­sures the right of any hu­man be­ing to de­ter­mine and ex­press his view on re­li­gion and to ex­e­cute this right. Ac­cord­ing to para­graphs 1-3 of Ar­ti­cle 18 of the Con­sti­tu­tion the re­li­gion acts sep­a­rately from the gov­ern­ment, each re­li­gion is equal be­fore the law and the pro­pa­ganda of re­li­gions, abat­ing hu­man per­son­al­ity and con­tra­dict­ing to the prin­ci­ples of hu­man­ism is pro­hib­ited. The above-men­tioned laws make Azer­bai­jan a mod­ern de jure sec­u­lar state, as well as de facto. As a con­se­quence of this pub­lic sup­port, ex­pressed through and Pres­i­den­tial foun­da­tion, there are dozens of na­tion­al­cul­tural cen­ters func­tion­ing at present. They in­clude “Com­mon­wealth” so­ci­ety, Rus­sian com­mu­nity, Slavic cul­tural cen­ter, Azer­bai­jani-Is­raeli com­mu­nity, Ukrainian com­mu­nity, Kur­dish cul­tural cen­ter “Ronai”, Lez­gin na­tional cen­ter “Sa­mur”, Azer­bai­jani-Slavic cul­ture cen­ter, Tat cul­tural cen­ter, Azer­bai­jani-Tatar com­mu­nity, Tatar cul­ture so­ci­ety “Tu­gan-tel”, Tatar cul­tural cen­ter “Yash­lyg”, Crimean Tatars so­ci­ety “Crimea”, Ge­or­gian com­mu­nity, hu­man­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety of Azer­bai­jani Ge­or­gians, Ingiloyan com­mu­nity, Chechen cul­tural cen­ter, “Vatan” so­ci­ety of Akhyska-Turks, “Sona” so­ci­ety of the women of Akhyska-Turks, Talysh cul­tural cen­ter, Avar so­ci­ety, moun­tain Jews com­mu­nity, Euro­pean Jews (Ashke­nazi) com­mu­nity, Ge­or­gian Jews com­mu­nity, Jewish women hu­man­i­tar­ian as­so­ci­a­tion, Ger­man cul­tural so­ci­ety “Kapel­haus”, Udin cul­tural cen­ter, Pol­ish cul­tural cen­ter “Polo­nia”, “Mada” In­ter­na­tional Talysh As­so­ci­a­tion, “Avesta” Talysh As­so­ci­a­tion, Udin “Orain” Cul­tural Cen­ter, “Budug” Cul­tural Cen­ter, Tsakhur Cul­tural Cen­ter. Not to men­tion the club-based am­a­teur so­ci­eties, na­tional and state the­atres, am­a­teur as­so­ci­a­tions and in­ter­est-fo­cused clubs in ar­eas with com­pact mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions. The State also sup­ports dozens of mag­a­zines, news­pa­pers, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­grams which are ex­pres­sion of lan­guage mi­nori­ties. Dec­la­ra­tion of the Year of Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism in Azer­bai­jan took place against the back­drop of re­li­giously State-led mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, which could be con­sid­ered as a form of soft power, is in­tended to be in­tro­duced as a model of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism else­where, es­pe­cially to states and so­ci­eties of the Mid­dle East, where rad­i­cal­ism has spread rapidly over the last 20 years. In re­cent years Baku has hosted nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional events, start­ing from the Baku In­ter­na­tional Hu­man­i­tar­ian Fo­rum. The cap­i­tal of Azer­bai­jan has hosted this Fo­rum since 2011, which aims to build an au­thor­i­ta­tive in­ter­na­tional ac­claimed ex­perts to dis­cuss press­ing global hu­man­i­tar­ian chal­lenges. The Baku In­ter­na­tional Hu­man­i­tar­ian Fo­rum prom­i­nent sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing 13 No­bel Prize win­ners, as well as jour­nal­ists, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and other dis­tin­guished guests. Since 2011 Baku has hosted the World Fo­rum on In­ter­cul­tural Dia­logue, in part­ner­ship with UNAOC, UNESCO, UN World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Coun­cil of Europe and ISESCO. Through this ini­tia­tive known as “Baku process’’, Azer­bai­jan ac­knowl­edges the power of in­ter­cul­tural dia­logue and the

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