29 April

On 29 April 2019, the State Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic on Work with Religious Organizations (SCWRO) Head Mubariz Qurbanly said in his speech at the Board of Muslim of Caucasus (BMC) that “introduction to multiculturalism”, which was previously an optional subject, will be studied as a main subject in higher education institutions starting from the new academic year. He also indicated that the manuals on this subject are going to be prepared under the guidance of the Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations, Multiculturalism and Religious Affairs at the Presidential Administration in the Baku International Multiculturalism Center along with the State Committee for Work with Religious Structures.  The textbook consists of two parts; a section on multiculturalism and a section on religion, ethnic and moral values.

The Azerbaijani society got outrage by this report. As a result, the SCWRO press service urgently issued a press release, in which the Head’s statement was clarified in a little more details. It explained the purpose of including a subject in the curriculum. The students were to be informed about all religions, with an emphasis on Islam, also, they will be introduced to national moral values of the country, the necessity of their protection and the policy of the Azerbaijani state in this direction. Besides, all students should be informed about religious radicalism, radical religious currents and their propaganda methods. It was especially underlined that the authors of the newly published textbook were the state structure employees, theologians, teachers of higher school and other experts of the field.

As for the pupils of secondary school, it was noted that all necessary measures have been taken to educate the younger generation in accordance with the national moral values of the Azerbaijani society. At the same time, the subject Hayat bilgisi (“Azerb. “Knowledge of life”) has been already taught in the secondary schools across the country for several years. The pupils have the opportunity to get acquainted with the subject that concerned some information on religion. Nowadays, as part of this discipline, there is a work to expand the religious issue in the curriculum of this subject. In other words, instead of studying religion in secondary schools, it will be broadening the horizons of schoolchildren in this field in order for them to obtain primary knowledge in the subject of religion.

However, it had no impact on the debate in society. On 29 April, actually the very same day, it was another statement made by the leadership of the Ministry of Education, which confirmed that starting from the next academic year, the 4-8 grades pupils would be studying according to the new textbook “Knowledge of Life” but it was pointed out that the issue of studying religion in the secondary schools as a separate subject was not going to be on the agenda.

With regard to the higher education institutions, it was underlined that such subjects as “Religious Studies, “Islamic Studies” and “History of Religions” have been already taught. At the same time, in accordance with the decision of the Minister of Education, Jeyhun Bayramov, “On changes in the educational programs of specialties at the bachelor’s level”, the subject “History of Religions” will be included in the curriculum of “Introduction to Multiculturalism” starting from the academic year 2019-2020.