The grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb chaired Monday's meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders (photo courtesy of Egypt Al-Azhar official Facebook page)
The Muslim Council of Elders will form an international legal committee to look into filing a lawsuit against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing "offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad", the council said in a statement after a virtual meeting on Monday.
The UAE-based Council was established in 2014, with the aim of promoting peace and addressing the sources of conflict, divisiveness and fragmentation in Muslim communities; the council is comprised of Muslim scholars and experts.
In its statement, the Council denounced what it described as "a systematic campaign" against the Prophet Muhammad and the sanctities of Islam under the slogan of freedom of expression.
The statement also denounced the recent killing of a French teacher as well as the stabbing and attempted murder of two Muslim women near the Eiffel Tower.
“All these incidents are abhorrent terrorism, no matter who committed them or what their motives were,” the Council said.
The Council added that freedom of expression comes with the social responsibility of respecting the rights of others and does not allow for exploiting religions for political purposes or for electoral campaigns.
The Council called on Muslims in the West to adhere to the principles of coexistence and peace, as well as to enhance their contribution towards development in their countries.
Monday's meeting, which was held via video conference and headed by the grand imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb, comes amid heightened tension over recent remarks made by French officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, about Islam.
Charlie Hebdo republished, in September, the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The magazine first published the cartoons in 2012 causing an uproar in the Muslim world. In January 2015, the magazine's offices were the target of a deadly terrorist attack by Islamist gunmen that left 12 people killed.
Macron refused to condemn the republishing of the cartoon, arguing that "France has freedom of expression."
Earlier this month, Macron gave a controversial speech where he announced that France has put in place a strategy to fight what he called “Islamic separatism” within the country, and said he would send a bill to France's parliament early next year to that effect.