Top Egyptian cleric urges global ban on Islam attacks

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Egypt’s top Muslim cleric on Saturday called for an international ban on all forms of attacks against Islam, after a provocative film sparked violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Muslim learning, underlined “the need for an international resolution (banning) any attack on Muslim religious symbols,” in a statement addressed to U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon and published by official news agency MENA.

The resolution should “criminalize attacks on Islamic symbols and on those of other religions, after the violence against those who provoked challenges to world peace and international security,” said Tayyeb.

A low-budget film produced in the United States, “Innocence of Muslims,” incited a wave of bloody anti-American violence in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and in several other countries.

The imam said it was the U.N.’s responsibility to “protect world peace from any threat or aggression,” so that "these dangerous events cannot recur."
He also called on “Egyptians in these trying times (to show) wisdom and restraint,” condemning the targeting of innocent people and underlining the need to protect foreign diplomatic missions.

Tens of thousands of people across the Islamic world on Friday staged anti-American protests against the film, which portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.

Overnight clashes in Cairo pitted petrol bomb-throwing protesters against police, who fired back with tear gas canisters, MENA said.

The interior ministry said it had arrested 142 people.

Riot police reinforcements helped evacuate Tahrir Square and its surrounding streets early on Saturday, restoring order in the capital.
An inquest was opened into the cases of two people found dead in the centre of the city, possibly linked with the riots, said a judicial source.

MENA reported one death on Friday night but the healthy ministry said it was not linked with the protests.

The unrest, triggered on Tuesday when demonstrators occupied the U.S. embassy in protest at the anti-Islam film, left several dozen people wounded.

Violent protests spread across the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen killing the U.S. ambassador and three diplomatic staff in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.