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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Islam 'should talk to the West'
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Sheik of al-Azhar mosque, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi (r), and Egypt's patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III
Religious affairs ministers and Islamic officials are attending
Delegates from 65 Islamic countries are meeting in Cairo for the start of a conference on tolerance in Islam.

The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, called on the participants to initiate a dialogue between the Islamic world and followers of other religions.

They should work together to refute the false allegations against Islam in the West, he said.

Many Islamic scholars have felt that their religion has come under attack since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Mr Mubarak said they should maintain an open dialogue with followers of other religions, in order to demonstrate that Islam promotes peace and brotherhood between people.

No civilian attacks

The Cairo conference groups together ministers of religious affairs and other officials from Islamic countries.

It is an annual event, but this year it is focusing on the theme of tolerance in Islamic civilisation.

Many Muslims feel that there are deliberate attempts in the west to confuse their religion with terrorism.

Speaking before the conference, the sheikh of al-Azhar mosque, the highest religious authority in the Islamic world, said there was a clear difference between jihad and terrorism.

He said Islam was totally opposed to all attacks against civilians.

The message of the Cairo conference is not only addressed to the west.

Islamic militants in the region have also been staging attacks within Arab countries.

Official religious scholars say these actions are not legitimate.

However, militants dismiss their arguments, accusing them of having sold their souls to governments.

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