Muslim Brotherhood calls for protection of churches; Al-Azhar condemns Baghdad attack

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CAIRO: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood urged the state to protect Christian places of worship after an Al-Qaeda group in Iraq, which claimed a deadly attack on a church in Baghdad, issued a threat against Egypt’s Coptic church. Al-Azhar also condemned the attacks in statement on Tuesday.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is stressing to all, and primarily Muslims, that the protection of holy places of all monotheistic religions is the mission of the majority of Muslims," the group said in a statement on its website late on Tuesday.

"The Brothers reject all stupid threats against Christian places of worship in Egypt issued by anyone and under any pretext," the group said.

"The Egyptian state and the Egyptian people must protect holy places of all worshippers of monotheistic religions," it added.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) has declared Christians "legitimate targets" as a deadline expired for Egypt’s Coptic church to free women allegedly held after converting to Islam.

ISI said in an internet statement its threat was justified by the church’s refusal to indicate the status of the women it said were being held captive in monasteries, the US-based monitoring group SITE said.

"All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the mujahedeen (holy warriors) wherever they can reach them," said the statement.

The group which claimed the capturing of Christians in a Baghdad church that ended Sunday with the killing of 46 worshippers in a rescue drama, had said that the attack was to seek the release of the alleged converts in Egypt.

An Egyptian security source told AFP that security around Coptic places of worship had been "discreetly reinforced with plainclothes police and patrols."

Egypt’s top cleric condemned on Tuesday the massacre of hostages by Al-Qaeda gunmen in a Baghdad church, calling it a "heinous act," his spokesman said.

Ahmed al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, the oldest Islamic seat of learning, affirmed that "Islam and Muslims have nothing to do with such acts, which harm Islam and violate Islamic precepts," state news agency Mena quoted spokesman Mohamed Al-Tahtawi as saying.

"Regarding the threat to target Egyptian churches, Al-Tayyeb affirmed that this is something to be rejected and strongly denounced, and it serves none but those who want to spark discord and target national unity," Al-Tahtawi said.



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