Egypt’s top cleric denounces the Islamic State

Egypt’s top religious leader in the Muslim faith condemned the Islamic State, which has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria, saying on Tuesday that it is a “corrupt, extremist organization that is damaging Islam.”

“An extremist and bloody group such as this poses a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing its image as well as shedding blood and spreading corruption,” Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam said.

The comments came as the Vatican called on many Muslim religious leaders to take a “clear and courageous stance” and to condemn “unspeakable criminal acts” by the Islamic State group.

His views represent the same opinion as Al Azhar, which is one of the oldest seats of Muslim learning. It also influences the opinions of Muslims worldwide.

Islamic State has declared a Muslim caliphate in the territory it captured thus far in Iraq and Syria. It sees all Shi’ite Muslims as heretics and killed hundreds of captive Shi’ite soldiers in June. It has also persecuted other religious minority groups.

In comments made by former Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, Allam said that the Islamic State’s actions strengthened the hand of those who wanted to harm Islam.

“(They) give an opportunity for those who seek to harm us, to destroy us and interfere in our affairs with the (pretext of a) call to fight terrorism,” Allam stated.

Last week, the United States bombed Islamic State targets in northern Iraq. It claimed that it was protecting the Kurdish autonomous region and trying to prevent what Barack Obama called a potential genocide of religious minorities.