Egypt's Al-Azhar head blames "enemies' plot" for rising militancy

Mariam Rizk , Wednesday 3 Dec 2014

Ahmed El-Tayyeb's remarks came on opening session of Al-Azhar-sponsored international conference to fight terrorism

Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb
Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque (Photo: AP)

Head of Egypt's top Sunni Islamic institute, Al-Azhar said on Wednesday he wished the West would experiment their weapons in the desert instead of the bodies and property of the Arabs, as he gave the opening remarks for an international terrorism-fighting conference.

Egypt is part of the international coalition to fight terrorism, with high expectations from the international community about the significance of its role in fighting radical religious thought and spreading moderate Islamic teachings through its Al-Azhar organisation.

Ahmed El-Tayyeb said a variety of political, societal and religious reasons stand behind the rising wave of militancy across the Middle East, but the "enemies' plot" could be a main cause.

"The plot plays on the sectarian and racial tension along with providing these parties with weapons," he said.

"I just wish the arms factories in the west would experiment with their weapons and their efficiency in the desert instead of the bodies and the installations of Arabs."

The two-day conference, sponsored by Al-Azhar, was attended by Egypt's Coptic Pope, 600 Muslim clerics and heads of Christian churches from 120 countries.

The conference comes at a time when militant groups are gaining cross-border alliances.

Earlier in November, Egypt's leading Sinai-based group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis swore allegiance to the Islamic State militant group, which has claimed control over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Other militant groups across the region, including in Libya, also pledged loyalty to IS, allegedly led by Iraqi militant Abu-Bakr Al-Boghdadi.

El-Tayyeb on Wednesday said the plots aim at "keeping Israel the strongest and richest country in the region."

He spoke of the US invasion of Iraq being predicated on "fabricated reasons" as part of a plot to break up the Iraqi army, one of the strongest in the region at the time. He added that fighting and divisions have spread to Syria, Libya and Yemen.

"God only knows when the war machine will be silenced in these stricken countries and when they will take their own decisions without regional and international pressure or interferences," he said.

The conference comes as part of the campaign by Egypt clerics and moderates to brush off the extremist image of Islam, increasingly exported by militant activity.

"IS attempt to export their vision of their new beguiled religion that came to people with slaughter, beheading and forced exile for those who disagree with it," El-Tayeb said. He condemned their brutality as "barbaric crimes" with the cover of Islam.

"This confrontation requires exporting moderate religious speech, which will set aside religion from the circle of manipulation...that threatens the society's safety and the nation's unity," top Lebanese Shia cleric Aly Al-Amin said.

Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II, also giving opening remarks, stressed that Christianity calls for love, acceptance and peacefulness among one another.

Egypt's Christians, who make up nearly 10 percent of the population, have long complained of the discrimination and the waves of sectarian strife that occasionally soar for different, especially in the south of the country.

"We pray every day for the city we're living in, for our neighbors, our borders, the president, the army and the government," Tawadros said. "The Egyptian church has always lived patriotically, and never claimed a timely authority."

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