Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb issued a statement Wednesday railing against what he called attacks on Muslims that seek to destabilize their relationship with their neighbors, saying the Western world has been hostile to the religion, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported Wednesday.
"The West throughout history has not treated Islam with respect, but showed hostility [against it], and chosen the path of conflict, rather than understanding," said Tayyeb in a statement responding to a French newspaper's publication of cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohamed.
He said that Christianity in the West was affected by the Roman ideas which caused Christianity there to be impacted by the pagan ideas of the Romans.
He stressed that Islam has protected Eastern Christian [Orthodox] from persecution by the West, and moderate Copts admit this.
He added that these attacks on Islam are part of a series of events, including Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses," the Danish cartoon controversy, and Pope Benedict XVI's statements maligning Islam. He said the events all aim at causing disputes between Muslims and Copts in Egypt.
He described those who stoke such disputes as hateful people who "work day and night to break up the Arab countries and to let the Zionist entity act as it wishes in the Arab and Islamic Middle East."
In an article published in The Washington Post, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said that the Prophet Mohamed is the highest role model for a billion and a half Muslims around the world, and that any insult to him "will be taken seriously" but in a "peaceful and legal" way, the state news agency MENA reported.
Gomaa was commenting on "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Islam film that was produced in the United States and posted on the Internet, angering Muslims all over the world.
Gomaa also stressed the need to learn about the true teachings of the Quran and the Prophet and to distinguish them from biased messages promoted in the media. He called on Muslims not to respond to provocative material.
“Insulting the Prophet and all other prophets is worse than insulting a person or his family,” Gomaa said. “The Prophet Mohamed is sacred. He created a great civilization that has contributed to humanity. He was the Lord’s gift to the world.”
“We must instill his values deeply in our souls,” he added. “One such value is to respond to provocations and foolish acts with patience.”
He said both Islamic institutions in Egypt and the Egyptian Coptic Church called for calm and end to violence.
The mufti’s article was part of a campaign launched by Dar al-Ifta on Tuesday to educate Americans and Europeans about the Prophet.