The grand sheikh of Egypt's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most respected seat of learning, says a historical misreading of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad have led to extremism among Muslims.

Speaking at the opening of a conference titled "Islam and the fight against terrorism," Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb condemned terrorism and called for religious curricula to be reformed to emphasize greater tolerance. He also warned of a conspiracy to "divide and conquer" Muslims that he said is being carried out by colonialists and Zionists.

Saudi Arabia's ruler said terrorists have given critics of Islam the opportunity to challenge the religion and view it negatively. King Salman's remarks were delivered by Mecca's governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal at the conference being held in the Muslim holy city in Saudi Arabia.