A top religious institute in Egypt on Monday called attempts by the Islamic State group to fan sectarianism a "malicious'' way to undermine modern societies and states.
Dar al-Ifta, a state institution which issues religious edicts to advise Muslims on spiritual and life matters, said citizenship, not sect, should be the link between people of the same country. Such a principle, it added, stands in the way of IS, which seeks to replace states with its self-styled caliphate.
"Citizenship represents a bond and a connection that brings the people together to protect their countries and ward off looming dangers,'' the statement said.
The Dar al-Ifta statement's emphasis on citizenship is a change from the routine focus on religious rituals, and appeared to be part of state-sanctioned efforts to moderate and reform extremist views.
Rights groups and minorities in the Sunni-dominated Middle East have long called for a greater tolerance and respect of minorities, including Christians, Shiites and others who complain of discrimination.
The statement by Dar al-Ifta follows a recent audio recording by an alleged IS group member who calls for "purifying'' Saudi Arabia from Shiite Muslims. Two recent suicide bombings targeting Shiite mosques in the kingdom killed 24 people. Both were claimed by the Islamic State group, which views Shiites as apostates deserving of death.
Many conservative Sunni Muslims in the region also view Shiites as heretics who have strayed from Islam.
Dar al-Ifta and other top Sunni religious authorities have rejected the Islamic State group and condemned its brutality.
But the political views expressed by such bodies carry little weight among Islamists, who view them as arms of the state and turn to their own clerics or political parties instead.