22/1/2015, Al Bawaba
Pope Francis’ words reflected wisdom, mercy and forgiveness when he said that we must reconcile freedom of expression with freedom of belief. He explained the limits and conditions governing the use of these freedoms; the right to express oneself comes with the condition that one not humiliate another. Pope Francis added that we should neither provoke nor mock the belief of others.
The current Roman Catholic Pope reminded me of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II who passed away on 2 April 2005. I was honored to meet him when I joined a delegation from Al Azhar Al Sharif to sign an agreement for dialogue and cooperation with the Vatican on 28 May 1998. I shall never forget his words of respect to the religion of Islam and to Al Azhar. He also praised Al Azhar for speaking with the language of respect and holding to the ideology of peace, values that should prevail and determine behavior between religions.
As president of an international organization for intercultural and interfaith dialogue I issued a declaration in the French newspaper Le Monde on 15 January, to inform the terrorists who advocated murdering the journalists of Charlie Hebdo that the prophet Mohamed does not need them to protect his image and status.
The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, condemned the murder of the journalists immediately after the news was released. His response of condemnation conformed to the holy words of God that assert that killing a soul that has not murdered is similar to killing all of mankind. By the same token, the Grand Imam criticized the French magazine’s insult to our holy prophet. I am familiar with Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, and as a former student at the Sorbonne, he definitely recognizes the difference between freedom of opinion and the respect of faiths and their symbols.
On the day the Charlie Hebdo journalists were murdered, Dar Al Ifta released Grand Mufti Shawki Allam’s decisive statement. He described the terrorist’s actions as criminal, executed by those who falsely claim they are from the Islamic state. After that incident, when the magazine continued to insult the Prophet, he condemned those provocations while at the same time stating they should not pose a threat to peace between our communities.
Translated from Al Bawaba