Al Azhar head calls for education reform to combat extremism

Grand imam Ahmed Al Tayib was speaking at a counter-terrorism conference in Mecca, organised by the Muslim World League group of non-government organisations.

Al Azhar grand imam Ahmed Al Tayib, pictured here, spoke at an anti-terror conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on February 22, 2015. WAM
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MECCA // The head of Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious seat of learning, has called for education reform in Muslim countries in an effort to contain the spread of religious extremism.

Speaking at a counter-terrorism forum in Mecca on Sunday, Al Azhar grand imam Ahmed Al Tayib linked extremism to “bad interpretations of the Quran and the sunna”, the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.

“There has been a historical accumulation of excessive trends” that have led some people to embrace a misguided form of Islam, he told the gathering.

“The only hope for the Muslim nation to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,” he said.

Mr Al Tayib’s comments come days after he expressed outrage at ISIL for burning to death a captured Jordanian pilot who took part in US-led air strikes against the extremists in Syria.

On February 4, after ISIL released a video showing Maaz Al Kassasbeh dying in a cage engulfed in flames, Mr Al Tayib said the militants deserved to be killed or crucified.

However, on Sunday he made no mention of ISIL but denounced “terrorist groups ... who have opted for savage and barbaric practices”.

He blamed unrest in the region on a conspiracy by what he called “new global colonialism allied to world Zionism”.

Mr Al Tayib said that this plot has exploited “confessional tension” in conflict-hit Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

The opening day of the conference also heard a speech from Saudi’s King Salman who called for “an efficient strategy to combat terrorism”.

“Terrorism is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology,” the monarch’s speech, read by the governor of Mecca, said.

“It is a threat to our Muslim nation and to the entire world.”

The three-day conference, organised by the Muslim World League group of non-government organisations, is being attended by senior clerics from across the Muslim world to discuss how Islam can combat extremism.

* Agence France-Presse