CAIRO: The grand imam at Egypt’s top religious authority promised to prosecute those who insult Prophet Muhammad.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, who is the most senior cleric at Al-Azhar, made the remark after meeting the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“We will track those who insult our noble prophet in international courts, even if we spend our whole life doing that,” the sheikh said on Sunday.
“We refuse to describe terrorism as Islam. Everyone should stop using that description immediately because it hurts the feelings of Muslims around the world, and it is a description that contradicts the truth that everyone knows.”
Le Drian was visiting Egypt at a time of increased tension following French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Islam. The European leader had described the religion as a “faith in crisis all over the world” and defended the publication of cartoons mocking the prophet.
Le Drian, in a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, expressed his country’s “deep respect” for Islam and that Muslims in France were part of the nation’s history and identity.
In his meeting with the sheikh he said that France believed in the importance of Al-Azhar and the grand imam in calling for tolerance and moderation.
“We must fight with the great Al-Azhar against hate and delusions of extremists.”
Al-Tayyeb described Le Drian as the “voice of reason and wisdom” and welcomed his statements. “Muslims around the world reject terrorism that acts in the name of religion and they affirm the innocence of Islam and its prophet from any terrorism.”
Terrorists did not represent Muslims and Muslims were not responsible for terrorists’ actions, he added.
“We wanted the officials in Europe to be aware that what is happening does not represent Islam and Muslims, especially since Muslims are the ones who pay the price for this terrorism more than others.
“Transgressions exist among the followers of every religion and in the various systems. If we say that Christianity is not responsible for the New Zealand incident, then we must also say that Islam is not responsible for the terror of those who fight in its name,” he said, referring to the Christchurch mosque shootings of 2019.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received Le Drian and the French ambassador to Cairo.
El-Sisi stressed the urgent need to uphold the values of coexistence and tolerance among all religions and to extend bridges of understanding.