The Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, denounced the beheading of a French teacher by a teenager in a suburb in Paris over offensive cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, yet said “insulting religions under freedom of speech was an invitation to hatred”.
In an address read out in Rome’s Capitol Square on Tuesday in front of a gathering of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders including Pope Francis and France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, Al-Tayyeb condemned the attack, declaring Islam and the teachings of its Prophet Mohammed “innocent from the wicked terrorist crime”.
However, he stressed that insulting religions and attacks on religious symbols under freedom of speech was of “dysfunctional double standards and a clear invitation to hatred”.
“He [the attacker] and others do not represent Islam…just like the attacker on the New Zealand mosque doesn’t represent Christianity,” he said.
Al-Tayyeb condemned attempts to impose a single civilization model and claims of one cultural model as suitable for the whole humanity, with different models portrayed as “remnants of history”.
His statements come days after the world’s highest Islamic Sunni institution expressed its condemnation of the terror attack, describing it as a “heinous crime”.
It stressed that murder is a crime that cannot be justified in any way, yet reiterated its call for passing of an international legislation that incriminates insulting religions or their sacred figures.
The condemnation by the top Sunni Islam religious authority comes days after history teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated in broad daylight at the Éragny-sur-Oise suburb, northwest of Paris, by the attacker, Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen.
The attacker was shot dead by police minutes after the attack, which came weeks after the teacher showed his students caricatures of Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.
At least 16 people, including a radical Islamist and four close relatives of the attacker, were detained over links to the beheading.