Canadian FM in Cairo says anti-Islam insults unacceptable

Ahram Online , Thursday 15 Jan 2015

The minister met with Egypt's Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb

Canadian foreign minister said Thursday on his visit to Cairo that he respects freedom of speech, but does not support insults to Islam's Prophet Mohamed.

Minister John Baird said in a meeting with Egyptian Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb that respect for all beliefs is essential.

Baird is on a visit to Cairo essentially to press for the release of a Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy imprisoned with two Al-Jazeera colleagues for more than a year.

In his meeting with Egypt's top Islamic cleric Baird discussed the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks and the controversy it has sparked on freedom of speech and Islamic extremism.

El-Tayyeb said that Islam is committed to freedom of opinion, adding that taking away this right is a form of "new slavery". He however said that it should be used to insult religions and nations.

He pointed out what he saw as a contradiction where laws exist against questioning certain historical events sensitive to Jews, but at the same time allow insults to other beliefs.

On Wednesday, Al-Azhar, Egypt's top Islamic institution headed by El-Tayyeb, called on Muslims to "ignore the nasty frivolity" of Charlie Hebdo's latest edition, which has a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

Dar Al-Ifta, which is responsible for issuing religious edicts, said in a statement on Tuesday that Charlie Hebdo’s decision to continue the publication of caricatures of Prophet Mohammed is "an act unjustifiably provocative to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims worldwide who love and respect the Prophet.”

Egypt's government and journalists' syndicate have condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks.  Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry flew to Paris for world leaders' solidarity march against terrorism.

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