MEMBERS of a Dublin Islamic centre have strongly condemned the religiously-motivated massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying freedom of speech is a universal craving of the human soul.

Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, sheikh of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Cultural Centre in Blanchardstown, also said Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland was wrong to threaten to take legal action against Irish media that republished caricatures of the prophet Muhammad from the magazine.

The theologian has said he will speak out against the violence at prayers today.

Dr Al-Qadri said his centre extended its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France following “the savage and dreadful terrorist attack”.

He noted that a Muslim policeman was also killed in the atrocity and that there was no space for extremism in the message of Islam.

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“We strongly condemn the attack unconditionally,” he said.

“The killing of journalists in Paris on Wednesday was not only an attack on France but also an assault on Islam and the very freedoms that allow 30 million Muslims to prosper in the west.

“Free speech is not a western concept; it is a universal craving of the human soul.

“The gunmen ran away shouting that they were ‘avenging the prophet Muhammad’. How dare they? We cannot let the murderers define Islam.”

Dr Al-Qadri said that in 6th Century Mecca, the prophet Muhammad fought for free speech “to proclaim one God as the creator of life and worthy of worship. The city’s pagans were his violent persecutors”.

He also said he would speak at a conference at his centre on Sunday about how the prophet of Islam reacted when insulted.

Responding to the comments made by Dr Selim, Dr Al-Qadri said a difference had to be made between incitement to hatred and a caricature.

“There is a difference between drawing a cartoon and incitement to hatred. If the images from Charlie Hebdo are published it will make no difference on the prophet of Islam, he is above that,” he said.

Dr Al-Qadri stressed that he was not calling for the pictures to be published and said that there were disagreements within Islam as to whether depictions of Muhammad can be published.

However, Dr Selim last night reiterated his threat to seek legal advice if the images were reproduced, citing Ireland’s law against blasphemy.

“When it comes to issues like this, I believe Muslims are the best to tell us because it is the Muslim business,” he said.

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