Al-Azhar, an Egyptian centre of Islamic scholarship, condemned on Wednesday the murder of three Muslim students in the United States as a "terrorist cowardly act."
The slayings in the North Carolina university town of Chapel Hill on Tuesday claimed the lives of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. The killings stirred outcry among Muslims worldwide, with many speaking out against what they argue was a hate crime targeting the victims because of their religion.
"Al-Azhar expresses its deep concern at this cowardly terrorist act, which indicates that terrorism has no nationality or religion," Al-Azhar said in a statement on Thursday.
It added that the killings were prompted by "racism and Islamophobia."
A 46-year-old neighbour who had reportedly posted anti-religious messages on Facebook has been charged with the murders. Police said that initial probes showed that a parking dispute might have been the motive for the shooting spree.