State news agency SPA declared that the Council of Senior Scholars which is Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, reported on Sunday that insulting prophets only serves extremists who want to spread hostility among societies.
The council said in a statement: The duty of wise people all around the world… is to condemn such insults which have nothing to do with freedom of thought and expression and are nothing more than pure prejudice and a free service for extremists. The council affirmed that Islam forbids any disparagement of any of God’s prophets.
This statement appears in the presence of controversy about the exposition of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then killed by someone considered an Islamist French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron had criticized those he described as Islamists and defended the publication of cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed.
All of this came after that a French teacher was decapitated last week near Paris after he had exposed cartoons of the Prophet during a class about free speech. The President Macron had declared that the killed teacher was a victim of an Islamist terrorist attack. He also said in a ceremony to honor the teacher last week: We will not give up cartoons, adding that he was killed because Islamists want our future, while he promised that they will never have it.
The event has inflamed debate over respecting religions and pushed several leaders in the Islamic world to denounce the crime but they confirmed the importance of respecting prophets.
Moreover, the grand imam of Al-Azhar denounced the killing of a French teacher however he said in a speech read out on last Tuesday that insulting religions in the name of free speech was an invitation to hatred. The address speech by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb of Egypt’s prestigious Sunni Islamic institution was read out in Rome’s Capitol Square in front of a gathering of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist leaders including Pope Francis and France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia.
Tayeb related in his speech, referring to the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty last Friday as a Muslim and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, I declare that Islam, its teachings and its Prophet are innocent of this wicked terrorist crime. At the same time, I emphasize that insulting religions and attacking their sacred symbols under the banner of freedom of expression is an intellectual double standard and an open invitation to hatred.
It should be noted that Paty (47 years old) was attacked and killed by an 18-year-old Chechen when he was in direction to his home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris. An investigation showed that he had exposed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and that caused the anger of one father who led an online campaign against the teacher and was in contact with the killer in the lead-up to the crime, The killer, Abdullakh Anzorov, dispatched images of the decapitated body on Twitter before he was shot dead by police.
Tayeb reported in his speech: This terrorist doesn’t speak for the religion of the Prophet Mohammed any more than the terrorist in New Zealand who killed Muslims in the mosque spoke for the religion of Jesus.
In fact, French police have detained 16 people, including a known Islamist radical and four members of Anzorov’s family.