president Ilham Aliyev at the opening of Heydar Mosque in Baku Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has declared 2017 the Year of Islamic Solidarity in Azerbaijan.

According to information provided by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Dubai, President Aliyev said in a decree he signed that Azerbaijan has been one of the main centres of Islamic civilisation for centuries and it has played a significant role in the spread of Islam, as well as establishment of Muslim renaissance.

“All of these paved the way for rich Islamic heritage in the country. Shamakhi Juma Mosque, built in 743, and also ancient manuscripts stored in the museums of our country are vivid graphic examples of Islamic culture,” he noted.

At present, the statement reads, the number of mosques in Azerbaijan has exceeded 2,000, and more than 300 of these mosques are protected as historical and cultural monuments.

In the recent years, the valuable monuments of Islamic culture Bibi-Heybat, Taza Pir, Ajdarbay, Shamakhi Juma mosques and “Imamzada” complex in Ganja city have been reconstructed and renovated. Heydar Mosque, which was built in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku city, is the most spectacular temple in the South Caucasus.

President Aliyev said that the Republic of Azerbaijan has established mutually beneficial relations with the Islamic world and acted as the initiator of a number of globally important cultural forums since it was elected as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, ISESCO, as well as other organisations.

Azerbaijan, he said, has made great contributions to the formation of a tolerant atmosphere, establishment of multiculturalism, intercultural and inter-civilisation dialogue. Azerbaijan’s reputation in the Islamic world was proved when Baku city was declared the capital of Islamic culture in 2009 and Nakhichevan city in 2018 year.

“The decision on holding the IV Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in 2017 creates favourable conditions for our country to take the next steps in the sphere of strengthening Islamic solidarity,” he added.

The fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, according to Aliyev, will bring Islamic countries together, attracting young people and encouraging solidarity between them. “Baku is a beautiful city that embodies Islamic traditions with a modern vibrant civil society. Having a multicultural, multi-faith embracing attitude, Baku will become a great setting for celebrating world-class sport and demonstrating [to] the world that Islam is all about acceptance, empowerment and peace,” he said.

“We will unite to welcome everyone to the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in 2017, with warm hospitality and respect, promoting the positive image of Islam. Supporting youth and women in particular, endorsing our values with peace, love and harmony, and striving for excellence in everything we do to deliver a memorable international sporting event.”

Azerbaijan has also successfully hosted many international and regional events and competitions, including the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, 2016 First European Games, F1 European Grand Prix and World Chess Olympiad.

President Aliyev said that the Islamic Solidarity Games are of great significance for the country. “By holding these games, we will once again show our power and opportunities, we will demonstrate commitment to our religious values and try to unite the Islamic world. This is our policy. Our policy is sincere, proper, fair, principled and courageous. I am sure that Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games will be Games of unity, brotherhood and friendship,” the President said.

Azerbaijan, located at the crossroads of civilisations, enjoys its great history, traditions and culture. For centuries, representatives of different ethnic groups and religions have lived in peace and prosperity, and Azerbaijan will do its best to host this competition at the highest level. The fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, which will bring together athletes from 57 countries, will be held on May 12-22, 2017, under the motto “Solidarity is our strength.”