Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar urges broader action against Islamist militants
CAIRO - Reuters
The Grand Imam of al-Azhar, one of the most prestigious centres of Sunni Islam learning, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (R) sits next Coptic Pope Tawadros (L) during the opening session of a two-day international conference on fighting extremism, on Dec. 3. AFP PhotoA prominent Muslim cleric said on Dec. 3 the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) should widen its scope to include all other militant groups that were "tarnishing Islam."
ISIL, has seized wide areas of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate to try to revive theocratic rule that prevailed in the region more than 1,000 years ago. Its militants have beheaded some prisoners and been accused of massacring and enslaving non-Sunni Muslims.
"The international coalition must call on all its material and moral energies to eradicate this terrorism, in all its manifestations, doctrines and schools, and to confront the countries that support it," Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, told a conference on fighting extremism.
"If it does this, the coalition is defending its own people first, before the people of the east."
Cairo's ancient Al Azhar is one of the world's most venerable centres of Islamic learning and the grand sheikh is considered to be among the most pre-eminent authorities in Sunni Islam, influencing the views of Muslims worldwide.
"I ask myself... day and night," Tayeb said, "about the reasons for this Arab ordeal and this blind discord that is mixed with the smell of blood and death and explosions and the beheadings of people and the expulsion of millions with a brutality that is unknown in history. These barbaric and awful crimes are sullying this religion."