al azhar leader
Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb (C) prays at a military funeral service at Al-Rashdan Mosque in Cairo's Nasr City district September 20, 2013. Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Ahmad al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, called for educational reforms in Muslim countries to contain the spread of religious extremism, according to media reports.

The Sunni cleric said that the ultimate aim of any reforms should be peace among various Islamic sects, Agence France-Presse reported. “The only hope for the Muslim nations to recover unity is to tackle in our schools and universities this tendency to accuse Muslims of being unbelievers,” he said.

Tayyeb had previously openly denounced the actions of the Islamic State group and called for its members to be crucified, after they released a video showing a Jordanian pilot being burnt to death.

In his speech at the holy site of Mecca, he did not mention ISIS, but denounced Muslims “who have opted for savage and barbaric practices.”

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, al-Tayyeb also warned of an “international plot” to sow sedition among various Muslim sects, Egyptian state news reported.

He reportedly said the Islamic world was facing a conspiracy of “new global colonialism allied to world Zionism,” by which unnamed foreign powers hoped to divide and rule conflict-struck nations like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

The conference also saw a speech from King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, who called for an “efficient strategy” to fight terror. “It is a threat to our Muslim nation and to the entire world,” he said.

The speech was delivered at the opening of a three-day conference organized by the Muslim World League, a group of religious and non-government groups from across the Islamic world. The purpose of the summit is to find strategies for Muslims to combat extremism.