French Foreign Minister meets with Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb during Cairo visit

CAIRO — In an attempt to improve the image of France in the eyes of the Islamic world after widespread demonstrations over statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of a two attacks committed by religious extremists, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, held a press conference during a visit to Cairo along-side Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

During the press conference, Le Drian expressed France’s deep respect for Islam and Muslims and stated they are part of the history and identity of the country. We are fighting terrorism and extremism, said Le Drian, not Islam.

During a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Le Drian said that France believes in the importance of the Sheikh’s voice in calling for tolerance and moderation.

However, the Sheikh reiterated his refusal to offend the Prophet Muhammad under the guise of freedom of expression, saying that Muslims all over the world would take issue anyone offending their religion and prophet.

The Sheikh rejected the characterization of the acts of terrorism committed in France as Islamic and stated that everyone should cease the use of the term immediately as it is offensive to Muslims around the world. Terrorism is terrorism, said the Sheikh, and it should not be linked with religion.