File picture: Pope Francis talks with Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb (L), Egyptian Imam of Al Azhar Mosque, at the Vatican. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, Egypt’s top religious authority, vowed to prosecute all those who insult Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) at international courts.

Dr. Al Tayeb made these remarks during Sunday’s meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is visiting Egypt to help de-escalate tensions that followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Islam.

“If insulting our prophet is a freedom of speech, we categorically reject it. “I am the first to protest freedom of speech when this freedom offends any religion, not only Islam,” the Grand Imam said.

He added that Europe is indebted to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and Islam, due to the light that Islam introduced to all humanity. “We reject calling terrorism ‘Islamic and everyone has to immediately stop using this term, as it hurts the feelings of Muslims worldwide and it contradicts the truth known by everyone.”

Al Tayeb confirmed that Muslims around the world reject terrorism acting under the cover of religion, and stressed that Islam and its prophet has nothing to do with terrorism.

“Al Azhar represents the voice of nearly two billion Muslims, and I said terrorists do not represent us and we are not responsible for their actions. I announced that in all international forums, in Paris, London, Geneva, the United States, Rome, Asian countries and everywhere,” the Grand Imam clarified.

“When we say this, we do not say it as an apology. Islam is above apologies,” he added.

“Violations are available among followers of all religions and under all systems. If we say that Christianity is not responsible for the New Zealand incident, we also have to say that Islam is not responsible for the terrorism of those fighting in its name.”

The Grand Imam highlighted Al Azhar’s enlightening role in encountering terrorism, saying that it put new curricula affirming that terrorists are criminals and that Islam is not responsible for their acts.

Al Tayeb hailed Le Drian’s rational statement following the crisis sparked by Macron’s controversial statements, saying his statement represented the voice of wisdom.

In a press conference, Le Drian reiterated France’s deep respect to Islam, including its role in culture, history, and French sciences, as well as to Al Azhar’s Grand Imam Al Tayeb’s role in calling for and promoting tolerance and moderation.

The French minister added that Muslims in France represent an integral part of the French society and are able to practice their rituals under the state’s protection.

The only battle that should be fought along with partners in Egypt is that against terrorism and extremism and those who distort the religion for political purposes, Le Drian said.

The French minister said his country differentiates between Islam and those extremists, affirming that Muslims are the main victims of terrorism.