CAIRO (AFP) – A senior Egyptian cleric on Sunday condemned a group of Christians who tore up pages of the Koran outside the White House on the anniversary of 9/11 saying their act was “despicable.”
“They are a minority full of rancour, blinded by extremism and bad intentions aimed at undermining Islam,” the grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said according to the official MENA news agency.
“Their despicable act will not harm” the Koran, he said about a small group of conservative Christians who on Saturday tore some pages from a Koran in a protest outside the White House.
The tiny protest came as the United States marked the somber ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks amid heightened tensions following a radical Florida pastor’s threat to burn the Koran. The pastor later decided not to go ahead with the torching of Islam’s sacred book.
Al-Azhar is the main seat of learning for Sunni Islam, and also runs an influential university based in Cairo.
“Part of why we’re doing that, please hear me: the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion must end,” said Randall Terry, a leading anti-abortion campaigner, and one of six people who took part in Saturday’s protest.
Another activist, Andrew Beacham, read out a few Koran passages calling for hatred towards Christians and Jews, and then ripped those pages from an English paperback edition of the book.
Al-Azhar had said in a statement on Thursday that a bid by the Florida church to burn copies of the Koran would be a “disaster for co-existence and peace between humans” that would provoke Muslim anger.