ROME: Hundreds of Muslims rallied in Rome and Milan on Saturday to show solidarity with the victims of militant attacks, condemning violence in the name of religion and chanting “we are not the enemy”.
“The message is clear, terrorism cannot continue to attack everywhere in the name of Muslims. We want the whole world to listen,” Abdellah Redouane, head of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Rome, said at the demonstration in the capital.
“The Koran is against violence”, “Islam is peace” and “Solidarity with Paris victims” read banners held up by members of the Muslim community, who gathered in a square in central Rome under a heavy police guard.
The rally, under the slogan “Not in my name”, began with a minute's silence for the victims of the attacks on Parisian nightspots last week which left 130 people dead.
In Milan, where security has been ramped up following fears of an attack on landmarks like the famous Scala opera house, people chanted “No to Isis”, referring to the self-styled Islamic State (IS) group which claimed the France attacks.
Davide Piccardo from Caim, an umbrella organisation of Islamic societies, called for a greater understanding and openness in Italy towards moderate Islam and “a crackdown on worrying Islamophobia”.
Top Egypt cleric urges disassociating Islam from attacks
Egypt's top Muslim cleric issued an impassioned appeal on Saturday to disassociate Islam from extremist attacks, saying Muslims themselves had suffered most from “the catastrophe of terrorism.“
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of Egypt's prestigious Islamic Al-Ahzar institution, also appealed for an end to anti-Muslim violence in Western countries, such as attacks on mosques.
“Those who have burned Korans or houses of God (mosques) in the West should know that these acts are also terrorism by any standard,” Tayyeb said at a meeting of senior Muslim clerics.
“So don't respond to terrorism with terrorism,” he said in a speech.
Al-Azhar, which operates a university, has regularly denounced violence by the IS group and other extremists that this month struck Beirut, Paris and Mali.
“God knows where the near future of humanity is headed, with those death squads and brokers of evil,” Tayyeb said.
“We condole with the families of victims in Europe and Africa and share their sadness and pain,” he said.
“We expect from all - especially intellectuals and men of religion - not to be swayed by the might of these shocks from the obligation of putting things in their context regarding the complete separation of Islam and a small minority that does not constitute a fraction of Muslims.“
“We Muslims have been through, and still undergo many times more these terrorist attacks,” he said.