Cairo (Egypt) (AFP) - Egypt's top Muslim cleric issued an impassioned appeal Saturday to disassociate Islam from extremist attacks, saying Muslims themselves had suffered most from "the catastrophe of terrorism."
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of Egypt's prestigious Islamic Al-Ahzar institution, also appealed for an end to anti-Muslim violence in Western countries, such as attacks on mosques.
"Those who have burned Korans or houses of God (mosques) in the West should know that these acts are also terrorism by any standard," Tayyeb said at a meeting of senior Muslim clerics.
"So don't respond to terrorism with terrorism," he said in a speech.
Al-Azhar, which operates a university, has regularly denounced violence by the Islamic State group and other extremists that this month struck Beirut, Paris and Mali.
"God knows where the near future of humanity is headed, with those death squads and brokers of evil," Tayyeb said.
"We condole with the families of victims in Europe and Africa and share their sadness and pain," he said.
"We expect from all -- especially intellectuals and men of religion -- not to be swayed by the might of these shocks from the obligation of putting things in their context regarding the complete separation of Islam... and a small minority that does not constitute a fraction of Muslims."
"We Muslims have been through, and still undergo many times more these terrorist attacks," he said.