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Muslim council in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 19
Last year the Georgian Muslim Council was created in Georgia. It is an NGO and its activities are to monitor the functioning of Mosques and Muslim society in Georgia. The development was critically assessed by Azerbaijani media. Until today the activities of the Muslims in Georgia were completely free but now a certain systematic approach has been adopted. Politicians and clerics from Azerbaijan have made some angry comments on the issue of Muslims' treatment in Georgia. In Georgia there live certain numbers of Muslims. Most of them are ethnic Azeri, but there are also Georgian Muslims, Chechens as well as Muslims of different ethnic groups. During the Soviet period they were under the subordination of so called supreme religious Soviet of the Caucasus people, which in fact continued Soviet tradition when all the Muslims in the Caucasus were monitored and ruled from Baku. In 1996 after the request of Georgian President Shevardnadze, the Georgian branch of the Caucasus Muslim Council was created and Georgian citizen Ali Aliev was appointed as head of the organization. In fact the Caucasus Muslims did not control the Northern Caucasus Muslims. The only neighboring country which the Baku Muslim centre was monitoring was Georgia which had a small Muslim population. The chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Gaji Fashizade stated in Baku that the foundation of Georgian Muslim Council targets the separation of Georgian Muslims from Azeri Muslims. According to him the process started when Georgians introduced a new symbol of their statehood, a flag with five crosses.

Co chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Alaz Alizade also considers this move of the Georgian government as a move against the ethnic Azeri population in Georgia. According to his opinion the Georgian Muslim Council should be functioning in Adjara where Muslims live and it should also exercise its influence in other places across Georgia. The Georgian President's administration has refrained to comment on the Azeri criticism. There could be some interesting details arising from this matter. Most of the Muslims in Georgia of Azeri origin are Shia Muslims, whereas most of the Georgian Muslims, mainly in Adjara, are Suni Muslims. Shia Muslims are under the religious influence of Iran while Sunis are subordinated to Turkey. It looks like the Georgian government, by creating the Georgian Muslim Council is trying to unite Muslims in Georgia under its umbrella so that they will not be under the scope of either Iran or Turkey. How realistic this notion may be is hard to say. However it could be considered that eventually the Georgian government will at least partially manage to do this. This will be another step for consolidation of the Georgian state as the citizens of Georgia are all Georgians despite their origin and ethnic or religious traditions.