File Photo: The courtyard of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Courtesy of SIS website.
“Al-Azhar strongly rejects and condemns the burning of a copy of the Holy Quran by a group of extremists in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, stressing that the repetition of this inciting act that provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan, is a hateful terrorist act that reflects the ignorance and recklessness of its perpetrators,” Al-Azhar said in its statement.
It added that the act only expressed intolerance and hatred towards Muslims in what can only be described as a hate crime.
Al-Azhar, the world's leading Sunni Islamic institution, also described the act as an instance of Islamophobia that fuels hatred between the followers of the different religions.
It also stressed that terrorism and provoking the feelings of others are two sides of the same coin and that both of them are equally dangerous and destructive.
Al-Azhar described this act and similar actions as reflecting a strong desire to destroy the bridges of dialogue that have been otherwise erected by the world's wise people and religious leaders.
It reiterated its call for governments and relevant institutions worldwide to issue laws that deter the perpetrators of such acts from insulting religions and to stop sanctioning such acts under the umbrella of freedom of expression.
Al-Azhar concluded by warning of an impending disaster that will affect everyone in case the world fails to take the necessary measures to confront these acts.
On Friday, members of the right-wing group “Patrioterne Går Live (The Patriots Go Live)” aired the burning of the Holy Book on a live Facebook broadcast in front of the Turkish embassy.
The group also burned a Turkish flag in the same broadcast.
Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, and Morocco, condemned the incident.
This is the second incident of its kind in less than three months.
Members of right-wing groups in Sweden and the Netherlands had set the Holy Quran on fire along with the Turkish flag.
During a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen two weeks ago in Cairo, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb asserted that freedom of expression must not violate the sacred beliefs of others.
The Imam condemned what he described as a direct insult to Islam in the West under the guise of freedom of expression.