Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday (December 27) called on Muslim countries to unite and strive to improve Islam’s public image.
He deplored the divisions and violence plaguing the Muslim world.
“We must remove Islam’s negative image from today’s cyber and real space,” Rouhani told the 29th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran.
“There is neither a Shiite nor a Sunni crescent. We have an Islamic moon. We, Muslims, are in a world where we must be united,” he added.
The Arab world has been polarised for years in a worsening proxy conflict between Iran and Gulf powers, particularly Saudi Arabia, fuelling tensions and conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites.
Shiite Iran supports Yemen’s Houthi rebels, while its Sunni-ruled regional rival Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition that has been bombing them in support of the loyalists since March.
Tehran also backs the Syrian regime, whose army is fighting rebels and jihadists, including the group calling itself Islamic State, or ISIL, that has taken over large swathes of the country and neighbouring Iraq.
“Does the destruction of Syria help strengthen Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates or other countries? Is anyone pleased by Syria’s destruction apart from Israel?” Rouhani asked.
He called on all Muslim countries to fight extremism from groups like ISIL, and the misery pushing young people to join their ranks.
“If some groups like Daesh can recruit soldiers, the reason is financial and cultural poverty,” Rouhani said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Both types of poverty should be eliminated from “Islamic society”, he said, adding: “Terrorism will not be destroyed by bombs.”