12/06/2014, 00.00
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Al Azhar promotes Islamic-Christian coexistence against Islamic State terrorism

by Rafic Greiche*
An international conference on terrorism harshly slams extremism and calls for the defence of Christians. Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II and Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb chair the meeting. Teaching a moderate version of Islam will counter the brainwashing of youth. The West should not confuse Islam and terrorism. Israeli aggression in the holy places is condemned.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - An international conference on terrorism was held at al-Azhar University, in the Egyptian capital, on Wednesday and Thursday. During the two-day event, participants  reasserted the primacy of a "middle way" for Islam against extremist terrorists as well as the notion of brotherhood between Christians and Muslims and members of other religions. The gathering focused as well on the need to spread the correct teaching of "jihad" and counter the brainwashing of young people who are fighting for the Islamic State.

Under the auspices of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest authority, 600 Muslim and Christian clerics from 120 countries, including some patriarchs or their representatives, gathered for the conference chaired by Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II and al Azhar's Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el Tayeb.

The seminar first condemned terrorism and fundamentalism in the name of Islam, which do not show the true face of the religion. Although perpetrators of such violence are not kafir or unbelievers, they are khawarij, violent extremists who have betrayed Islam.

"Terrorising the peaceful, killing the innocent, assaulting property and sanctities are crimes against humanity that Islam totally condemns," the final statement said. Instead, the latter emphasised that, together with Muslims, Christians and members of other religions in the Middle East are brothers and citizens, responsible for the same land.

The conference stressed that Muslims and Christians have lived in harmony in the Middle East for many centuries. It urged Christians not to emigrate or leave their land, but to hang on until the terrorist storm passes.

"Assaulting Christians and believers of other religions through false piety is a disobedience of the correct teachings of Islam," the statement said.

Al Azhar calls for better education and communication in mosques and cultural centre to correct the wrong interpretations by which young people have been "brainwashed" into supporting jihad and serving the caliphate.

Only governments can call a jihad, it noted, and the caliphate - as it was in the time of Muhammad - was to bring justice, peace and security to all citizens, without discrimination on grounds of religion, race, colour, etc.

It is equally important that academics, imams, and the authorities to teach young people the "real Islam", i.e. "moderate" Islam, the middle or wasaty way, without false interpretations of the Qur'an and the hadith.

Al Azhar also wants the Western world and its media not to mix terrorists' actions with Islam.

The final statement also slams attacks against holy sites under Israeli control - first of all the Al Aqsa mosque - and against Christians and Muslims, calling on the international community to condemn loudly these attacks, and bring the attackers to international courts.

Al Azhar also said that it would soon issue a statement against terrorism and fundamentalism to give the world a clear message on what Islam really is. (RG)

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