On September 9, the Muslim Council in France, which is home to the largest Islamic minority in Europe, denounced the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, saying mosques in the country would pray for the victims’ well-being.
In a joint statement with a Christian group, the council said, “Barbarians are perpetrating crimes against humanity in the region, exploiting Islam as their banner.”
Several Muslim groups in France have already condemned the violence and brutality displayed by Islamic State, a radical group that has declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. However, this was the first time that Christians and Muslims came together to denounce Islamic State. Earlier, the Vatican as well as some Christian leaders urged Muslims to speak out against Islamic State and while some did respond to the request, due to the decentralized nature of Islam, the declarations seemingly fell upon deaf ears.
“The signatories reaffirm their support to their Middle Eastern Christian brothers, many of them Arabs, as well as for all other minorities in the region who are now victims of a destructive campaign by these terrorist groups that threaten their existence,” the joint declaration stated.
Over the last few months, Islamic State’s Sunni fighters have chased Christians, Shiite Muslims and other religious minorities out of Iraq and Syria, abusing and executing hundreds of captives who refused to obey them.
“The issue of Middle Eastern Christians is not only one for Christians. French Muslims are with us to support them,” said Patrick Karam, head of the Endangered Middle East Christians Group, that drew up the statement with the Muslim Council.
While eight percent of France’s population is constituted of Muslims, Britain and Germany are home to large Muslim minorities as well.
Dalil Boubakeur, council president and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said grand muftis in Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as Muslim organizations in the United States and Britain have condemned Islamic State. He said Muslims in different parts of the world have been put in jeopardy by the way Islamic State has conducted itself. Additionally, he appealed to Muslim organizations, saying they have to jointly work against Islamic radicalization by teaching impressionable Muslims Islam does not promote such brutality.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s grand mufti Shawqy Allam, who has fiercely denounced Islamic State’s killings in the past, travelled to Brussels to clarify the role that Muslim organizations have to play in order to rectify the image of Islam at the earliest time possible. A statement released by Egypt’s religious body Dar Al Ifta said Islam’s image had been exposed to deliberate distortion. While meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Allam said the ‘terrorist group’ referring to themselves as ‘Islamic State’ is unacceptable by his religion, adding promptly that radical groups often use religion as a political ideology to make unqualified statements about Islamic law and this in turn, poses a growing challenge to projecting the true image of Islam.