CAIRO: UN chief Antonio Guterres warned yesterday against growing hatred of Muslims, less than a month after a deadly attack on mosques in New Zealand killed at least 50 people. His remarks came during a speech at Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, where he met Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb. “Around the world, we are seeing ever-rising anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia,” the UN secretary general said.

CAIRO: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech following a meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar yesterday. – AFP

He cited the March 15 New Zealand mosque attacks by a white supremacist as well as a 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people and is believed to be the deadliest against Jews in US history. Guterres warned of a surge in hate speech he said was “entering the mainstream, spreading like wildfire through social media”. “We see it spreading in liberal democracies and as well as in authoritarian states.” Guterres is on a two-day trip to Egypt, “Islam is under a vicious attack aimed at accusing it of terrorism, while the most victims are Arabs and Muslims,” said Guterres. “The world is witnessing political wars that use religious and sectarian slogans to achieve different interests at the expense of the blood of innocent people, which should be taken care of,” he added. Guterres stressed the role of Al-Azhar as an important example of the true face of Islam, praising Al-Azhar’s initiative to open dialogue with religious institutions around the world, especially the Vatican, which will help consolidate peace and coexistence.

Tayeb affirmed Al-Azhar’s readiness to carry a global message of peace to cooperate with the UN to achieve their common goals of consolidating world peace and achieving equality among all. He highlighted the great role of Al-Azhar in confronting terrorism, laying down the principles of human goodwill, equality and justice among people. He stressed that Al-Azhar trains Muslim imams and preachers and receives thousands of students from all over the world to qualify them and provide them with the knowledge and values necessary to carry this noble humanitarian message. Following his visit to Al-Azhar, Guterres was scheduled to meet President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. On Sunday, he attended an Arab League summit in Tunisia. – Agencies