Al-Azhar's deputy leader Abbas Shouman (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, does not accept comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron about the right to say offensive things about religion in a free society, the institution’s deputy leader has said.
Abbas Shouman told Al-Ahram Arabic news website: "Cameron can say what he wants, but we don't accept it. We don't have to explain 'freedom' to him or to anyone else. Freedoms don't include offending religion."
In an interview with CBS' Face the Nation programme aired on Sunday Cameron said: "I'm a Christian. If someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive. But in a free society, I don't have a right to sort of wreak my vengeance on them."
Al-Azhar had the same stance against French Charlie Hebdo magazine's latest issue.
The cover of the first edition of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo since 12 of its staff members were killed by Islamist gunmen last week showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohamed crying and holding up a "Je suis Charlie" sign under the words "All is forgiven."
Dar Al-Ifta, an entity that issues religious edicts and works under the umbrella of Al-Azhar, said Charlie Hebdo’s decision to continue the publication of caricatures of Prophet Mohamed is "an act unjustifiably provocative to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims worldwide who love and respect the Prophet."
It described the drawings as "counter to human values, freedoms, cultural diversity, tolerance and respect to human rights," adding that it "deepens hatred and discrimination between Muslims and others."