(Vatican Radio) The Grand Imam of Al Azhar University in Cairo, Muhammad Al-Tayyeb, and other authorities of the Islamic world will be participating in an international conference in Florence, Italy next week to explore the theme “East and West–Dialogues of civilization.''
The Catholic lay community St. Egidio is organizing the 8-9 June conference in response to the increasingly worrying conflicts sweeping the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and the international community’s apparent incapacity to take action to resolve them.
In an interview with the Italian daily Sole 24 Ore ahead of the meeting, Al Tayyeb condemned the actions of the so-called Islamic State (or ISIS) militants who have been sowing terror and death across the Middle East. He said that “one mustn’t use the name ‘Islamic State’ [for] this terrorist organization. An Islamic State does not exist. Islamic countries exist that those terrorists want to destroy. Isis’s claim to creating an [Islamic] Califate does not reflect Al Azhar’s position.” Rather, the Imam said, his institution would like to see “the birth of a union of Muslim countries based on the example of the European Union.”
The idea of a union of Muslim countries based on the EU model is one of the proposals that will be on the agenda at the Florence conference.
European political, institutional and cultural representatives will participate in the two day event, including Italy’s former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, leaders of the European Parliament and of the European Commission.