CAIRO: Islamic scholars at a conference on the continuing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed said it is time to stop protests and boycotts and instead enter a dialogue with the West in order to explain the prophet s importance to Muslims.
At a Friday conference, about 40 Muslim scholars from across the Islamic world signed a declaration appealing to Muslims to exercise self restraint in accordance with the teachings of Islam.
We reject countering an act of aggression by actions not sanctioned by Islam, the statement said, alluding to the publication of the cartoons and the subsequent violent protests.
The statement also appealed to the Danish government and people to apologize, condemn and bring to an end this attack.
The Muslim world has been outraged by the drawings, first published in a Danish paper last September then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedoms. Some protests have turned violent – including one on Friday in Libya in which at least 10 people were killed – and the tension has noticeably increased anti-Western sentiments in the Muslim world.
Islam widely holds that representations of Mohammed are banned out of reverence and for fear they could lead to idolatry.
It is our duty and responsibility to move on to the stage of discussion and inform the world about our Prophet by disseminating and making known his character traits,noble qualities and high moral standards, the conference statement said.
Amr Khaled, a 39-year-old moderate Egyptian preacher, told reporters after the conference that peaceful protests were inevitable but it was time to move forward.
It is a sign that the Islamic community is alive. The boycott was a must – but now it is time for dialogue, he said.
Egypt s mufti, Ali Gomaa, emphasized the forgiving nature of the Prophet but added: We won t stop supporting our Prophet, and preaching for God, in a gentle way. Abla El-Kahlawy, a veiled dean of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, was angrier.
Our taboos and sanctities have been violated; I m appealing to intellectuals and the wise in the world to stop the mutual hatred and … enmities that are pushing the world to the edge, she said. What is the aim of violating what is held sacred by more than 1 billion Muslims?
But Khaled, the Egyptian preacher, said he s ready to go to Copenhagen, with other scholars and Muslim youth, to discuss the problem.
The deep-rooted solution of this problem is through dialogue to reach an understanding and coexistence between the nations, Khaled said.
Also Friday, a Danish church delegation met with Egyptian religious leaders in an effort to help reduce the tension and correct misunderstandings, said delegation member Harald Nielsen.
We want to reveal our friendship with the Muslims and Christians in Egypt, said Nielsen, secretary in the Middle East for a Danish NGO called Danmission. We do not agree on the cartoons published by the Danish newspaper, and we were insulted by them.
The church delegation is on a three-day visit to Egypt at the initiative of Danmission. AP