The government of Azerbaijan is determined to resist radicalization. That’s no easy feat: Shi’ite Muslim Azerbaijan shares a 400-mile border with the Islamic Republic of Iran which has consistently sought to undermine the Azerbaijani state and which offers lucrative scholarships and subsidies to Azerbaijani imams in order to get them to accept Iran’s revolutionary interpretation of Shi’ite Islam.
Enter the State Department: While the Azeri Education Ministry prepares to crack down on those who violate its ban on hijab in schools, the State Department has criticized the secular republic for violating religious freedom. Meanwhile, Azeri girls are caught in the middle. Al-Arabiya quoted an Education Ministry spokeswoman as saying, “We are getting calls from girls who inform us anonymously that they do want to go to school but their parents don’t let them do so, saying that they must wear the hijab.” The Al-Arabiya story continued, “The State Department also criticized the Azerbaijani government for the continued closure of several mosques and for increasing fines for violating laws regulating religious activities.”
Azerbaijan, as did Turkey until the current government lifted restrictions, regulated schools to ensure that very young children were not subject to incitement and also that religious education teachers actually understood Islam, rather than simply the Saudi or Iranian interpretation of it.
The State Department actions show once again the Obama administration has lost its moral and strategic grounding, and also that Secretary Clinton’s State Department refuses to define American interests, let alone how to achieve them.