Iranian President Hassan Rohani says Muslims must improve the image of their religion that has been damaged by extremist groups such as the Islamic State.
Rohani said at an Islamic conference in Tehran on December 27 that "it is our greatest duty today to correct the image of Islam in world public opinion."
"Did we ever think that, instead of enemies, an albeit small group from within the Islamic world using the language of Islam, would present it as the religion of killing, violence, whips, extortion, and injustice?" asked Rohani, whose remarks were broadcast on state television.
He added that the principles of Islam are against violence and blamed the extremism of such movements as the Islamic State on "narrow-mindedness and a lack of moderation."
Rohani also criticized Muslim countries for "being silent in the face of all the killing and bloodshed" in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Iran supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is an ally of the Huthi movement which control large parts of Yemen and is fighting against a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Rohani accused Saudi Arabia of promoting poverty and terrorism by bombing Huthi rebels and supporting opposition groups fighting against Syrian forces loyal to Assad.
"Does the weakening of Syria benefit its Muslim neighbors -- does the destruction of Syria lead to the strengthening of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, or other countries?" he asked. "Who is pleased by Syria's destruction other than Israel?"
Rohani also chided Saudi Arabia for buying "bombs and missiles" from the United States instead of distributing the money "among poor Muslims."
He added that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been caused by the aerial bombings by the Saudi-led coalition, which began fighting against the Iranian-backed Huthis in March.
Rohani said the increased poverty in Yemen is one of the chief causes of Islamic extremism in the Middle East.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and hurriyetdailynews.com