International conference led by Coptic Pope and Grand Imam
Last week, Al-Azhar, the highest authority for Sunni Islam, convened an international conference on terrorism at al-Azhar University in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday and Thursday (12/10 and 12/11). The conference brought together 600 Islamic and Christian theologians from 120 countries and included several patriarchs or their representatives. The conference was led by both Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyib.
Participants stressed a priority of applying the “moderate way” of Islam. The meeting centered on the necessity of teaching the correct concept of “Jihad” and opposition to brainwashing the youth who are fighting alongside the Islamic State group.
Though the conference condemned terrorism in the name of Islam, which distorts the true face of the religion, al-Azhar issued a statement formally rejecting the labeling of Islamic State fighters as apostates. The publication Asharq al-Awsat explained that the practice of one Muslim declaring another to be an apostate–takfirism–is controversial within Islam. “While this is something that is actively practiced by Islamist groups like ISIS, it is generally rejected by adherents of mainstream interpretations of Islam,” the publication said.
“Al-Azhar rejects the takfirism of ISIS…. Because takfirism cannot be applied to any believer, regardless of his sins,” Al-Azhar said in a statement in response to comments made by the Mufti of Nigeria during the counter-terrorism conference.
In their closing statement, participants said that “terrorizing the safety of civilians, killing the innocent and attacking holy places are all crimes against humanity, and Islam severely condemns such acts.” Muslims, Christians and followers of any other religion in the Middle East are brothers and citizens who are caretakers of the same land, the conference concluded, noting the long history of coexistence in the Middle East. The conference pleaded with Christians not to leave but to stand steadfast until the current storm passes. Hostilities against Christians and the faithful of other religions through false piety are considered disobedience to the true teachings of Islam, it said.
The scholars gathered at al-Azhar called for a more propitious method of teaching and communication in mosques and cultural centers that will correct the false interpretations that have brainwashed young people to support Jihad and the Caliphate. They further declared that governments are the only ones qualified to call for Jihad and the Caliphate, as it was in the time of the Prophet Muhammad: this is the only way to bring about justice, peace and security without sectarian or ethnic distinction. They also affirmed the role of academics, imams and other authorities in teaching youth “the correct and moderate path of Islam,” without misinterpretations and false explanations of the Quran and the Hadith.
Likewise, they criticized the attacks made against places of worship located under Israeli control, the most important of which is the al-Aqsa Mosque, and against Christians and Muslims. They called upon the international community to condemn these attacks and to bring the perpetrators before international courts. They further noted that they would soon issue a statement against terrorism and fundamentalism in order to provide a clear message to the world about the meaning of the true Islam.
According to the Egyptian State Information Service, al-Tayyib has ordered the conference’s research and speeches to be translated into five languages and distributed worldwide.
A version of this article originally appeared at Aleteia’s Arabic edition and has been translated by Don Puhlman.
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