The head of a Lebanese Hezbollah group voiced harsh words for Islamic extremists today, saying the violent actions of some Muslim militants have hurt Islam more than the people they attack.
According to the Associated Press, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah blasted religious terrorists while delivering a video address to followers in southern Beirut, saying that radicals have done more to disparage the Muslim prophet Muhammad than journalists who published satirical cartoons mocking Islam. The comments appeared to be an indirect reference to the recent shootings at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France.
A transcript of his exact words is not currently available, but AP reports that the sheikh, who condemned the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in the past but was “silent” on the similar assault on Pentagon, said extremists who murder and behead people have done more harm to Islam than “anyone else in history.” Although no groups were mentioned by name, the remarks also appeared to discredit militant Islamic organizations such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, also called the Islamic State, which has ruthlessly murdered and oppressed both non-Muslims and Muslims in Syria and Iraq.
Unlike the French shooters, who are reportedly linked to the Sunni Muslim terrorist group Al-Qaeda, Nasrallah’s group is primarily made up of Shia Muslims, who are typically less offended than Sunnis by depictions of Muhammad. Known for making inflammatory remarks about Israel — he once called the nation “a cancer” that must be eradicated — his Hezbollah branch is currently fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.
Dozens of other, far more moderate Muslim groups have also condemned the recent killings in Paris. Dalil Boubakeur, the head of the Great Mosque of Paris, was quick to decry the attackers.
“I want to denounce the horror and the unspeakable and show our compassion,” he said. “We condemn what just [happened] in the name of all Muslims. This is an act of war in the middle of Paris.”
The Arab League also spoke out against the shooters, saying the organization “strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris.” Al-Azhar, a prominent school of learning for Sunni Muslims, disavowed the shooters and noted that “Islam denounces any violence.” Muslims the world over have also used social media to strongly rebuke both the actions and the religious claims of the terrorists, saying their tragic deeds are an attack on Islam and free speech. Dozens of other Muslim organizations, leaders, and individuals have also disavowed the attackers in the harshest terms.