Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawki Allam, headed to Europe Sunday in efforts to clarify and explain the facts about “true Islam”, with the aim of combating extremist ideologies.
Allam leads Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s foremost religious authority for issuing fatwas (religious edicts).
Allam is scheduled to have high-level meetings with political and executive leaders in Europe, including the Dutch Foreign Minister. He will also visit the Dutch Parliament and the French Senate.
The meetings come within the efforts to modify the image of Islam, which the Mufti believes has been distorted by “terrorist groups”. The Grand Mufti reiterated his condemnation of radical Islam and extremism on several occasions, as the ideologies of radical Islam are on the rise, especially with the spread of “Islamic State” (IS) and its affiliates worldwide.
The Middle East is witnessing a string of the rising Islamist groups in countries including Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
With the radical Islamist groups regularly posting pictures and videos while beheading and killing people, in addition to attacks in Western countries, one of the most prominent of which was on the French Charlie Hebdo magazine in January, several anti-Islamist movements emerged in Western countries. There has also being a string of violent attacks against Muslims.
Dar Al-Ifta repeatedly condemned and emphasised in several statements that Muslims living in the West “are part and parcel of the European society and are citizens who enjoy full rights and obligations”.
In February, three American Muslims were shot dead in North Carolina, causing a wave of anger on social media networks.
Further, a Swedish security guard attacked a nine-year-old Swedish Muslim in an act that was condemned Dar Al-Ifta in a statement, noting that “the unprecedented wave of hate crimes and brutal discriminatory acts of violence and killings against Muslims in Europe and the US is truly alarming”.
Earlier in April, controversial posters were plastered on public transportation in Philadelphia criticising Islam, in what Dar Al-Ifta described as a “racist” campaign.
In Europe, anti-Islamist movements have been on the rise. These include the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) movement in Dresden, Germany that was originally founded in October 2014, and has gained some support in other European countries, including Austria.
However, PEGIDA’s demonstrations were met with counter-demonstrations by anti-discrimination activists.
Allam published several articles in efforts to combat extremism in international newspapers, including the Japan News, the French Le Monde, Canadian newspapers and The Wall Street Journal.