HRWF (21.11.2016) – Mosques in Azerbaijan will have cameras installed so that religious services will be available for viewers through Skype. This was officially announced through the Azerbaijani Press Agency’s Caucasian Muslims Office. Preparations for the installation of this new system has already begun.
After the installation of this new system, anyone will be able to log into the cameras of any mosque through their online Skype account and view the service. People who do not have the ability to attend the service in person will be able to view from their home or any other place. Right now, all major mosques in Azerbaijan have already integrated this system into their worship and cameras are currently installed and functioning in these facilities.
The State Committee Chairman, Mubariz Gurbanli, who works with religious organizations, has told the press that they are also in support of this idea and that similar systems are already being used in other countries.
Meanwhile, this idea has also appealed to those of the Russian province of Ingushetia who are interested in installing this system within their own region. Their reasoning for installing these web cameras however is to protect the leaders of the Muslim mosques from false allegations regarding what they may be teaching their congregations, such as extremism or terrorism.
The head of state in Ingushetia, Unus-bek Evkurov, proposed the installation of web cameras in mosques in order to protect imams from false accusations and to create transparency within their meetings and activities. “We can archive the recordings of all religious meetings which will create a good defence against all false accusations directed towards imams.”
In March 2016, the idea of installing web cameras in all the mosques of Azerbaijan was first brought forward for discussion and questions were raised: But would this not violate the rights of religious believers?; Could this not cause critics fighting for the cause of human rights to attack Azerbaijan for making this decision?; Would cameras even be able to help prevent the rise of terrorist activities in Azerbaijan?
Novella Dzhafarova, a lawyer in Azerbaijan, said about this new system that, “[o]nline Prayers cannot be viewed as a violation of human rights. In governmental and community buildings, there exist many cameras which the citizens are not opposed to. I believe that Muslim believers will accept this new system. “
An expert has said that the beginnings of terrorist activities do not usually take place in the mosque but outside. “The reason why the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan wants to install this system is that the faithful who cannot attend meetings will be able to understand the essence of correct teachings in the Quran.”
A doctor of philosophical science, Rafik Aliev, stated that the decision of the Caucasian Muslim Office violates the rights of Muslim believers. “On one side, it is a good idea. Muslim believers who are unable to attend the sermons because of work or any other reason, will have that opportunity to do so through the online system. But in everything else, I see nothing good from this. A person who is coming to the mosque, wants to be face to face with God and pray without the feeling there is a third party involved. The other believers in the mosque do not disturb that connection you are experiencing with God because within the mosque, you are not allowed to speak. Many believers will feel uncomfortable with even the thought that someone may be watching them. This is why the spiritual connection will not be possible for everyone who might attend if they think this spiritual situation is not a private one. Azerbaijan is often under criticism from Western countries for violation of religious rights. I think that this decision of the Caucasian Muslim Office regarding the installation of web cameras for listening to the services online using Skype, will not go unnoticed in Western Europe and many accusation will be directed towards us.”
According to Rafik Aliev, the online broadcasting of the services will not dissuade radical Islam in the country. “It is naive to think that online broadcasting of services will prevent the campaigning of terrorist organizations promoting extremist activities. Radical citizens will not speak of their plans under the watch of cameras so, logically, they will choose some other place to discuss these matters. They would most likely rent some kind of apartment for this use. Online broadcasting of Islamic services will in no way reduce radical Islam within Azerbaijan. This system will have an opposite effect among the religious community. Instead of helping to combat extremism, a negative view will be created among the believers.”
This article was translated by Scott and Olga Allen for Human Rights Without Frontiers
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