Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Shia group Hezbollah, reportedly said on Friday that Islamic extremists had caused more damage to the religion than people who had drawn cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, an indirect reference to the shooting at the office of the French Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
“The behavior of the takfiri groups that claim to follow Islam have distorted Islam, the Quran and the Muslim nation more than Islam’s enemies ... who insulted the prophet in films ... or drew cartoons of the prophet,” Nasrallah said, according to a report by The Daily Star, a Lebanon-based newspaper, adding that these militant groups were the “biggest threat to Islam.”
Takfiri is a term used in Islam to refer to those Muslims who accuse others of apostasy, and is considered derogatory. The Iran-backed Shia group views hardline Sunnis from the Islamic State group and al Qaeda as takfiris.
In recent months, following the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah has increasingly spoken out against the group and attacked its ideology. Fighters from Hezbollah have also been providing assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s beleaguered army in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated rebels.
Nasrallah also called on “all Islamic sects” to confront extremists and to “work to isolate them, surround them and end it (the threat to Islam),” according to a report by The New York Times.
Nasrallah’s latest comments are in stark contrast to his 2006 statement after Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Back then, Nasrallah had reportedly said that if Muslims had killed the British novelist Salman Rushdie, who wrote the controversial novel, "The Satanic Verses," after Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him in 1989, others would not have dared to insult Islam.
“If there had been a Muslim to carry out Imam Khomeini's fatwa against the renegade Salman Rushdie, this rabble who insult our Prophet Mohammed in Denmark, Norway and France would not have dared to do so,” Nasrallah had reportedly said at the time.