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West shouldn’t respond to terrorism with terrorism: Al Azhar head

West shouldn’t respond to terrorism with terrorism: Al Azhar head

CAIRO: Egypt’s top cleric said on Saturday that terrorism was a disease that used religion as a front and it was wrong to blame Islam for crimes committed in its name, like the recent Paris attacks.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Al Azhar, the main centre of Islamic learning in Egypt, told a meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders that he condemned both the Paris bloodshed and an attack by Islamist militants on a hotel in Mali.

He said the violence had no link to authentic Islam. “It is a clear injustice, and blatant bias, to tie the crimes of bombing and destruction happening now to Islam just because those who commit them cry ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they commit their atrocities,” Sheikh Tayeb said.

He said terrorism was a life philosophy whose adherents were willing to die, but it was not the by-product of any Abrahamic faith. It was rather an “intellectual and psychological disease” that used religion as a front.

Sheikh Tayeb also appealed for an end to anti-Muslim violence in Western countries. “Those who have burned (copies of holy) Quran or houses of God (mosques) in the West should know that these acts are also terrorism by any standard,” he said.

“So don’t respond to terrorism with terrorism,” he said in a speech.

Al Azhar, which also runs a university, has regularly denounced violence by the Islamic State militant group and other extremists.

“God knows where the near future of humanity is headed, with those death squads and brokers of evil,” he said. “We condole with the families of victims in Europe and Africa and share their sadness and pain,” he said.

“We expect from all — especially intellectuals and men of religion — not to be swayed by the might of these shocks from the obligation of putting things in their context regarding the complete separation of Islam... and a small minority that does not constitute (even) a fraction of Muslims.

“We Muslims have been through, and still endure, many terrorist attacks,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2015

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