Hours before Pope Francis called for the abolition of capital punishment on Friday, he warmly embraced Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, who has expressed his desire that Muslims who convert to Christianity should be executed.
The world's best-known Muslim leader has also called homosexuality a disease, dismissed the idea of human rights as "ticking time-bombs" and has endorsed suicide attacks against Jewish men, women and children.
Earlier that day in the pontiff's address to the International Association of Penal Law, Pope Francis compared the rhetoric of conservative politicians who oppose the homosexual agenda to speeches made by Adolf Hitler.
"These are actions that are typical of Nazism, that with its persecution of Jews, gypsies, people with homosexual orientation, represent an excellent model of the throwaway culture and culture of hatred," he said.
When speaking to al-Tayyeb, however, the Holy Father discussed the objectives in the document "Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," which he co-signed with the Grand Imam in February.
The two religious leaders engaged in "cordial discussions," according to the Vatican, talking about the protection of minors in the digital world and goals achieved since Pope Francis' recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.
In 2016, Al-Tayyeb called for "unrepentant apostates" from Islam to be killed. "The four schools of law all concur that apostasy is a crime, that an apostate should be asked to repent, and that if he does not, he should be killed," he said in an interview in Arabic on television, explaining:
There are two verses in the Quran that clearly mention apostasy, but they did not define a specific punishment. They left the punishment for the Hereafter, for Allah to punish them as He sees fit. But there are two hadiths [on apostasy]. According to the more reliable of the two, a Muslim can only be killed in one of three cases, one of which is abandoning his religion and leaving the community.
Sheikh Al-Tayyeb continued:
We must examine these two expressions: "Abandoning religion" is described as "leaving the community." All the early jurisprudents understood that this applies to someone who leaves his religion, regardless of whether he left and opposed his community or not. All the early jurisprudents said that such a person should be killed, regardless of whether it is a man or a woman — with the exception of the Hanafi School, which says that a female apostate should not be killed.
Asked about the exception for the female apostate, the Muslim theologian responded: "Because it is inconceivable that a woman would rebel against her community."
The global leader of Sunni Islam, which constitutes the majority of the world's Muslim population, also dismissed the concept of human rights as "full of ticking time-bombs" and insisted that "the [Islamic and Western] civilizations are different."
"Our civilization is based on religion and moral values, whereas their [Western] civilization is based more on personal liberties and some moral values," he told his interviewer.
The Grand Imam's most severe condemnation was reserved for homosexuality: "My opinion was — and I said this [in the West] — that no Muslim society could ever consider sexual liberty, homosexuality and so on to be a personal right. Muslim societies consider these things to be diseases, which must be fought and treated."
At a meeting of the Muslim Council of Elders in Indonesia, Al-Tayyeb castigated Christian leaders in the West who are tolerant of gay rights: "Unfortunately some heads of churches in the United States accept same-sex marriages. What will the heads of churches in the U.S. that accept gay marriage say to Jesus? I wonder what is left of the Bible in those Churches. And what will they say in front of Jesus, peace be upon him."
The day before Pope Francis met Al-Tayyeb, Church Militant reported on the pontiff welcoming notorious Anglican lesbian activist Jayne Ozanne, who has been campaigning to criminalize reparative therapy, which is counseling to eliminate unwanted same-sex desires.
Al-Tayyeb blames Israel for terrorism in the Middle East, calling the Jewish state a "dagger plunged into the body of the Arab world," saying that were it not for "Zionist entity abuse ... the Middle East would have progressed."
"Francis kissed an anti-Semite and an Islamist of the worst kind," observed Italian journalist Giulio Meotti.
Al-Tayyeb fanned the flames of terrorism during the Second Intifada by saying that "the Palestinians have the right to blow up everything they want — women, children, bars, buses, as long as the victims are Jewish Zionists."
"The solution to Israeli terror lies in the proliferation of suicide attacks that spread terror into the hearts of Allah's enemies," he said.
Al-Tayyeb suspended all dialogue with the Vatican in 2011 after he took offense at comments made by Pope Benedict XVI on the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. Benedict called for the protection of Christians after a New Year's bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people.
Islamic scholar Raymond Ibrahim has identified Al-Tayyeb's "dialogue" with Pope Francis with the Islamic practice of taqiyya, or deception.
"While such open hypocrisy — also known as taqiyya — may go unnoticed in the West, in Egypt, human rights groups often call him out," writes Ibrahim.
He cites a statement from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights accusing Al-Azhar of having two faces: one directed at the West and which preaches freedom and tolerance, and one directed to Muslims and which sounds not unlike ISIS: "In March 2016 before the German parliament, Sheikh Al-Tayyeb made unequivocally clear that religious freedom is guaranteed by the Koran, while in Cairo he makes the exact opposite claims."
Christians "should be aware that things are not always what they first seem on the surface" when dialoguing with Muslims, cautions Robert R. Reilly in The Prospects and Perils of Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. "A Muslim can see the same word and understand it differently."
At his meeting with Pope Francis, the Grand Imam was accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates H.E. Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and by the ambassador of the Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, H.E. Mahmoud Samy.
Also present were representatives of Al-Azhar University, Cdl. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Bp. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, the pope's secretary.