Top Sunni cleric says Islam is religion of peace

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The head of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning has told an audience that includes Pope Francis and hundreds of other religious figures from around the world that Islam is a religion of peace that values human life.

At an event Monday evening during the first-ever papal visit to the Gulf, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, quoted numerous Quranic verses about the value of life, including one that says: “Whoever kills a person it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”

The grand mufti said all faiths denounce terrorism in all its forms and that acts of terrorism are carried out by criminals, not by true believers of God.

The sheikh said that after the 9/11 attacks the media made Islam look like a “bloodthirsty” religion and that Muslims paid a heavy price for the acts of a few.

He spoke after the Muslim Council of Elders and the pope met for an interreligious dialogue that recognized efforts by the pope and al-Tayeb to foster peace.