Al-Azhar slams Macron’s ‘racist remarks’

Published October 5, 2020
In this file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint news conference with Slovakia's Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini at the Bratislava Castle in Bratislava Slovakia. — AP/File
In this file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint news conference with Slovakia's Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini at the Bratislava Castle in Bratislava Slovakia. — AP/File

CAIRO: Scholars at Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, have denounced remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron on “Islamist separatism” as “racist” and “hate speech”.

Macron on Friday unveiled plans to defend France’s secular values against “radical Islam”, describing Islam as “a religion in crisis” worldwide.

“He made false accusations against Islam, that have nothing to do with the true essence of this religion,” Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy said in statement late on Saturday.

Al-Azhar is one of the world’s leading Islamic seats of learning and Egypt’s highest religious institution.

“Such racist statements will inflame the feelings of two billion Muslim followers” around the world, and block the path to constructive dialogue, the statement added.

Al-Azhar said making “false accusations about Islam or other religions, such separatism and isolationism” went against the actual “reality of what these religions call for”. It also condemned those who exploit or employ “religious texts to achieve unsavoury purposes.”

Macron’s address came 18 months ahead of presidential elections where he is set to face challenges from the right, as public concern grows over security in France.

Macron was speaking one week after a man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the former Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, which the government denounced as “Islamist terrorism”. The controversial magazine has repeatedly published sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

On Thursday, Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb voiced “immense anger” at the use by some Western officials of the term “Islamist terrorism”, without heeding its ramifications.

He said in a tweet that such terms constitute “an insult” to the religion and its followers, and warned against their use by officials, public figures and intellectuals.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2020

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