"We are united in the conviction of the fundamental importance of religious freedom and tolerance', said in a joint note Arab League Secretary General Nabil al Araby, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, the leader of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Ramtane Lamamra, the head of the African Union's Peace and Security Council. The statement was issued on the eve of Friday prayers at which authorities fear violent protests following a US-produced film and the publication by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo of cartoons both mocking Prophet Mohammed.
"The anguish felt by Muslims over the production and posting on the internet of a film insulting the prophet and similar acts is shared by all people and communities who reject the use of religion to fuel provocation, conflict and extremism", said the statement. "We know that the behavior of small groups does not represent more extended communities but the damage they cause can be considerable. We must act so that recent events do not undermine the relationship of confidence and respect we have built in all these years".
In condemning recent violence, the four leaders also said that the international community cannot be held hostage by extremists. "It is not possible to respond to offensive language with violence because this only creates a spiral of brutality which will damage all", the statement also said. "Reason must prevail and this is why we are asking for an end to violence wherever it takes place".
The note also stressed the organizations' engagement in promoting anti-blasphemy measures within a UN resolution on human rights and called on religious leaders to promote dialogue. 'The only response to dark intolerance and ignorance is the light of respect, tolerance and dialogue', concluded the note.(ANSAmed).