Everyone should “work together” to fight extremism in the wake of a terrorist attack in France, the government adviser on Islamophobia said.
History teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded near Paris on Friday after previously being threatened for discussing the cartoons of the prophet of Islam Mohammed with his class, French police said.
The suspect, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee unknown to intelligence services, was shot dead by police – and officials have launched an investigation into murder with “suspected terrorist motives”.
Islam forbids images of the prophet, claiming that they lead to idolatry.
Qari Asim MBE, imam of the Mecca mosque and government adviser on Islamophobia, spoke out to condemn the “barbaric and horrific acts of violence”, saying the incident “can never be justified in the name of Islam ”.
He also urged the British not to be divided by the “hate rhetoric” of Islamist extremists.
Mr Asim said: “We are all dismayed to know that another life has been lost due to an act of terror in Paris.
“Such barbaric and horrific acts of violence can never be justified in the name of Islam; such cowardice further taints our peaceful religion and increases hostility towards Muslims around the world.
“We must all value and defend freedom of expression and belief. At the same time, we must respectfully help those who may not have the same beliefs as we understand the deep pain we may feel when we perceive that our faith is undermined.
“As Imam, I urge everyone to work together to counter divisive and hurtful stories and not give birth to those who seek to exploit them. The extremists seek to divide us, but we must not play with their hateful rhetoric. “.
The French anti-terrorism prosecution said authorities investigating the murder of Mr Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine had arrested nine suspects, including the teenager’s grandfather, his parents and his 17-year-old brother.
French counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said an investigation into the suspected terrorist murder had been opened.
Mr Ricard told reporters that the Moscow-born suspect, who obtained a 10-year residence in France as a refugee in March, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which shoots plastic pellets .