CAIRO (AP) — From his seat in Egypt, the leading religious authority in Sunni Islam has lashed out at supporters of abortion rights, sexual reassignment and globalization, saying they aim to "annihilate all Abrahamic religions."
In a meandering address to a conference held Tuesday, Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt's Al-Azhar, suggested that terrorism was not a local phenomenon but the result of an international conspiracy, one that includes "many of those advocating human rights, global peace, coexistence, freedom, equality and other concepts that are mandated in international charters."
He went on to accuse the West of condoning Christian and Jewish extremism while only highlighting acts of violence committed in the name of Islam.
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has called on the deeply conservative Al-Azhar to promote religious reforms in order to combat extremism. The president also recently called for legislation that would do away with verbal divorce, whereby men can divorce their wives without any documentation. Al-Azhar refused, saying verbal divorce has been well established by Islamic scholars.
Al-Azhar, a centuries-old seat of learning that provides guidance to Sunni Muslims, is opposed to abortion, and views homosexuality and gender reassignment surgery — except in cases of birth defects — to be sins.
Tuesday's conference was attended by Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II and was intended to be a show of unity among the country's Muslims and Christians.
Hundreds of Christians fled the northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in recent days after a string of deadly attacks and threats from an Islamic State affiliate. Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the government of failing to protect Christians.
El-Tayeb, who is appointed by presidential decree, did not mention the violence or the displacement in his address.