Grand Imam of Al Azhar condemns terrorist acts in Lebanon, France and Mali

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, has condemned the terrorist attacks which took place recently in Lebanon, France and Mali.

Dr. Al Tayeb made his remarks today while addressing a meeting of the Muslims Council of Elders (MCE) in Cairo, in presence of the Council’s Secretary General, Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi.

He said in his speech that terrorism should not be linked to any religion because it is more of an intellectual and psychological disease that is in continuous search for pretexts for its behaviour in the holy scriptures.

“What triggers terrorism is not always religious extremism. In many cases, terrorism emerged as a product of social, economic and political doctrines,” he said.

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar emphasised the need to totally separate Islam, with its principles, values, culture and civilisation, from the blows by a few individuals who count for nothing when compared to the peaceful and open-minded Muslims all over the world. He also denounced those in the West who have resorted to burning copies of the Holy Quran and attacking mosques, saying such acts also qualify as terrorism. “In fact, they are the fuel for the terrorist thought from which we are currently suffering.”

Dr. Al Tayeb called for uprooting terrorism through an integrated system that includes education, culture, youth, media and a religious reasoning that reflects the true Islam and its teachings. He announced a peace campaign that would visit 16 countries to promote the culture of peace and to correct misconceptions.

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar opened his speech by saying: “I begin here by pausing at the plight of terrorism which has reached all places. Terrorism has reached Lebanon, the land of Pan-Arabism and peaceful co-existence and last week, it made a stop in Paris, the city of lights and knowledge, with hundreds of French citizens killed and injured.”

Let us imagine,” he went on, “how many French families went, in a blink of an eye, from security, peace, stability and hope for a better tomorrow, to a life of agony, sorrow and sadness, taking its toll on families, women and children. Those innocent people had no hand in such destruction and death.”

“Before our awakening from the Paris shock, another catastrophe struck in Mali with several hostages killed in Bamako. God only knows where the future of humanity is heading with those merchants of death. We thought this destruction was exclusive for Arab and Islamic countries, but terrorism is heading West, North and South as it headed North before.”

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar said that terrorism for those who believe in it is more than a way of thought, it is a philosophy of life that is worth dying for. It does not reflect any religious teachings, but is an intellectual disease, he said.

“The lesson here is that terrorism has no religion, no identity. It is totally unfair to be biased and to link these crimes of destruction and bombing spreading everywhere to Islam just because those who commit them shout “Allahu Akbar” while indulging in their heinous acts.”

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar extended, on behalf of the MCE and of Al Azhar, condolences to the families of the victims in Europe and Africa and urged all, including intellectuals, politicians and religious leaders, to be fair and objective in separating between Islam and a few people who count for nothing, compared to the peaceful and open-minded Muslims all over the world.

“We Muslims have suffered many such attacks by the gangs that hide behind religion. As I speak to you now, blood is shed profusely, but it has never occurred to us that there is a link between such crimes and the religion in whose name they were committed.”

Criticising those who resorted to burning copies of the Holy Quran and ransacking places of worship, Dr. Al Tayeb described their acts as terrorism. “In fact, this is a fuel for terrorism and you should not fight fire with fire. It is not to be expected from those who claim to be progressive, nor that they should insult other beliefs in public. It is time for us, all of us, to work on putting out fires and to addressing the aggravation of tension in many hotbeds of our Arab and Islamic worlds.”

He called for action to help the Somali people to maintain the country’s unity, to solve the prolonged crisis there and to qualify it to become a beacon of progress and peace in the Horn of Africa.

“We need to confront the terrorist ideology and to promote the culture of amity and camaraderie, as was called for the former Grand Imam of Al Azhar in a famous letter sent to the religions scholars conference in London in 1936.”

Dr. Al Tayeb thanked the young scholars of Al Azhar who led the campaigns organised by Al Azhar to 11 capital cities in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. He added that a further 16 campaigns will tour the world to promote the culture of peace and to address misconceptions under the slogan “All peoples of the world are equal in humanity and in the right to live in peace and security.