Azhar's top sheikh slams France's 'systemic Islamophobia'
"We are not witnessing a systematic campaign to introduce Islam in political battles to create chaos, which started with a malicious attack on the Prophet of mercy," Ahmed Al-Tayeb said on Saturday, referring to recent insults against the prophet of Islam.
"I say to those who justify insulting the prophet of Islam: the real crisis is because of your intellectual duplicity and your narrow agendas," the scholar said in a series to tweets.
"I remind you that the most important responsibility of leaders is to maintain civil peace, security in the community, respecting religious, protecting people from falling into strife and not to fuel conflict in the name of freedom of expression."
The comments were triggered by recent tensions between France and the global Muslim community, which saw the President Emmanuel Macron claim "Islam is a religion in crisis worldwide."
Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy said responded to the comments at the time saying: "He made false accusations against Islam, that have nothing to do with the true essence of this religion."
The statement added: "Such racist statements will inflame the feelings of two billion Muslim followers" around the world, and block the path to constructive dialogue.
The tensions sparked a global movement urging for the boycott of French products, and pulled in world leaders and influential figures to condemn France’s attack on Islam.
Turkey’s President Recepy Tayyip Erdogan was particularly incensed by the campaign championed by Macron to protect France's secular values against radical Islam, a debate given new impetus by the murder this month of a teacher who showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.
Erdogan earlier slammed Macron over his policies toward France's large Muslim minority, saying that he needed "mental checks".
"What's the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?" Erdogan asked.
"Macron needs mental treatment," Erdogan added, while indicating he did not expect Macron to win a new mandate in 2022 elections.
France's fraught relationship with its Muslim minority became inflamed in recent weeks over satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's republishing of offensive caricatures of Islam's prophet.
Macron defended the move, saying that France will "not give up cartoons". At the same time, the president has also undertaken a crackdown against Muslim groups and what he has described as "Islamic separatism".
While defenders of the caricatures have portrayed the issue as one of free speech, critics have pointed out the racial undertones of anti-Islamic sentiment in France and its weaponisation against the country's mostly West and North African Muslim population.
Last week, two veiled Muslim women were stabbed in Paris by two women who reportedly called them "dirty Arabs", triggering further anti-Islamic sentiment in the country.