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New Quran battles extremism
02:08 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb says terrorism "has no religion or identity"

He tells fellow Islamic scholars that terrorists show a "blatant bias" against Islam

Many terrorists, like those in the Paris attacks, have tried to use the Quran to justify their actions

CNN  — 

Terrorists cite their Islamic faith in justifying carnage. In fact, they’re insulting it.

That was the assessment Saturday by Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb – a top Sunni Muslim cleric in Egypt – who claimed “terrorism has no religion or identity,” even if those behind it make just such an association.

“It’s a grave injustice and a blatant bias to attribute what’s happening now – of bombing and destruction crimes – to Islam,” Tayeb said at a meeting of top Islamic scholars, according to Egypt’s official Ahram news agency.

He specifically condemned last week’s coordinated shootings and bombings that killed 130 in Paris, as well as Thursday’s storming on an upscale hotel in Bamako, Mali, that ended with 19 people slain.

Islamist extremists have been tied to both. ISIS laid claim to the bloodshed in France, which was spearheaded by a man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who had been training foreign fighters as recently as last month in the terror group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, according to a French counterterrorism source.

As to Mali, the Al Akhbar news agency reported that Islamist militant group Al Mourabitoun claimed it carried out the attack together with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. And French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s TF1 that Al Mourabitoun’s leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was “probably” behind the attack, though he wasn’t “entirely sure.”

In his comments at Al-Azhar, a centuries-old Islamic university connected to a mosque of the same name, Tayeb tried to distance terrorism from any faith, even if perpetrators point to religious justifications for their actions.

“Terrorism often evolves from social, economic and even political ideologies,” he said.

Arab and Muslim leaders, the cleric added, should counter terrorism through education, media and a “religious discourse that mirrors the reality of Islam and Sharia.”

The recent terror attacks have inflamed many critics of Islam, including spurring a raging debate in the United States about what restrictions should be put on Muslims in the country or seeking to enter it.

Yet there have been loud voices among Muslims who, like Tayeb, have denounced the killings.

Dalil Boubakeur, the chairman of the Grand Mosque of Paris, acknowledged that it’s a fair question to ask why Muslims don’t march en masse after terror attacks done purportedly in its faith’s name. But, he stressed, there’s no way anything in Islam can support what groups like ISIS are doing.

“In what page of (the) Quran is that written that a woman must take bombs inside her body to explode and kill other people? Boubakeur told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week. “In what part of Quran is that said? In what page of Quran is it said that we shall kill innocent people? Young people?”

This sentiment has been echoed in Egypt, and not just by Tayeb. The country’s grand mufti, Sheikh Shawky Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, told CNN’s Ian Lee that ISIS “warps (the Quran’s) teachings,” pointing to 50 verses the group has taken out of context.

“Terrorist operations carried out in the name of Islam pain us,” the grand mufti said. “In fact, Islam rejects such operations.”