Azerbaijan set to stiffen rules of holding religious ceremonies, use of religious flags, mottos

Baku: Azerbaijan is set to stiffen rules of holding religious ceremonies and performing rites as well as use of religious flags and mottos.

A number of amendments to the law on religious freedom are to be discussed during today’s joint meeting of the parliamentary committee on legal policy and state building, and the committee on public unions and religious organizations.

The proposed amendments are meant to change the name of Article 21 from “Religious rites and ceremonies” to “Religious rites, ceremonies, and attributes”. The current law permits performance of Islamic rites and ceremonies only by Azerbaijani citizens who have studied in the Republic of Azerbaijan. With the latest amendments, Islamic rites and ceremonies can only performed by Azerbaijani citizens who have not received spiritual education abroad.

Another amendment to Article 21 of the aforesaid law bans displaying of spiritual mottos (except for those a person displays on himself/herself) and attributes in public places other than places of worship. Religious flags can only be hoisted in places of worship, religious centers and offices.

Meanwhile, an addition (168-1) will also be made to the Criminal Code in connection with the proposed amendments to the law on religious freedom. A citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan who has studied abroad will be fined AZN 1,000 to 5,000 or sentenced to up to one year in prison for holding Islamic ceremonies or rites.

The draft law, after being discussed at today’s joint meeting, will be put up for discussion at the parliament’s plenary meeting on December 4.