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Islam does not condone terrorism: Al-Azhar chief

IANS | Cairo |

The Muslim faith is not a terrorist religion, Ahmad al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar mosque – the highest seat of Sunni learning – said on Friday.

"Islam is not a terrorist religion, just as Christianity and Judaism are not," Tayyeb told an international peace conference in Cairo on Friday attended by Pope Francis during his two-day visit to Egypt.

Islam should not be judged on the basis of the actions of a "limited group of people" who misinterpret its sacred texts, Tayeb said.

In the same way, the Crusades during the Middle Ages do not make Christianity a violent religion, nor should Judaism be judged for the occupation of the Palestinian territories, he said.

Before the visit – the first papal trip to Cairo since John Paul II's in 2000 – Francis said he was travelling as a "messenger of peace".

The visit is aimed at improving Christian-Muslim dialogue and reaching out to Egypt's Christian minority, three weeks after bombings at two Coptic churches killed 47 people.

The Vatican and Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar university in February resumed dialogue sessions in Cairo that were broken off in 2011 after Pope Benedict XVI deplored an attack on a Coptic Church in the city of Alexandria.

Relations between the Vatican and the Al-Azhar earlier faltered in 2006 when a speech given by Benedict appeared to associate Islam with terrorism.