Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Muslim countries to take on the responsibility of improving Islam's public image in remarks at a conference on the Islamic world in Tehran. Rouhani's comments came at the end of a year that has been marked by multiple Islamic militant attacks across the world.
Rouhani said Saturday Muslims "must remove Islam's negative image from today's cyber and real space," Agence France-Presse reported. "I invite all Islamic countries in this region and beyond — even those who, until today, have bombed and launched missiles on their neighbors — for all of us to stop this and choose the right path," he said.
Several Islamic militant groups have been on the rise throughout the year, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In November and December alone, terrorists killed nearly 200 people in the name of Islam with attacks on Paris, Beirut and San Bernardino, California.
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) December 27, 2015
Media coverage has been saturated with news of Islamic extremist attacks, and many people increasingly associate the religion of Islam with acts of violence. Rouhani urged all Muslim countries to take responsibility for showing a different side of Islam, despite differences in ideology or historic ties. Iran, for instance, is a majority Shiite country, surrounded by Sunni Muslim countries that have often found themselves in violent conflict with each other.
ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for some of the most deadly terror attacks of the year, rose from the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria. The conflict in Syria began after 2011 protests against President Bashar Assad’s government turned violent. Pro- and anti-government factions have since splintered, becoming increasingly sectarian. ISIS has been battling Assad's forces while attempting to impose Islamic law across vast swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Iran has supported Assad in the civil conflict, coming under fire from Western authorities who cite Assad’s brutal regime as a contributing factor to the rise of ISIS.