Azerbaijan warns pro-hijab 'extremists'
Baku: The interior minister of Azerbaijan
warned on Friday that attempts to stir up discontent about a law
preventing girls from wearing the Muslim hijab in schools
would not be tolerated.
"In the struggle with extremely dangerous and harmful
religious extremism and radicalism, all our officers are
watchful and vigilant," Interior Minister Ramil Usubov told
Azerbaijan's official government newspaper.
"The relevant authorities will prevent attempts to
spread such ideas and violations of stability," he said.
His comments came after several demonstrations against
legislation regulating school uniforms which effectively
prohibits the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in schools in
the mainly Muslim but officially secular republic.
The leader of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan was also
detained on terrorism charges this month after calling for the
overthrow of the government, accusing it of violating
religious rights by prohibiting the hijab in schools.
Usubov said that Azerbaijan was "one of the best
examples of religious tolerance in the world" as well as a
country where women's rights are guaranteed.
"Those who want their daughters to cover their heads
can do so away from school, at home," he said.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan is a mainly Shiite Muslim
country, but after decades of Soviet rule it emerged as one of
the most secular states in the Islamic world.
The authorities have imposed restrictions on religious
worship and arrested radicals in attempts to prevent the
spread of extremism, although critics have accused them of
persecuting devout Muslims.