Muslim scholars from around the world who met this week in Medina have denounced “terrorism” and appealed to “extremists” to repent, said a statement on Thursday.

The four-day Islamic conference, sponsored by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz and organised by the Islamic University of Medina, drew some 500 participants, according to press reports.

The scholars condemned “all acts of terrorism wherever they take place and whoever is behind them,” said the concluding statement from the conference, which wrapped up on Wednesday.

The scholars also criticised “the harm inflicted on unarmed civilians and civilian facilities under the pretext of combating international terrorism.”

The statement published on the organisers' website called on extremists to “return to their senses and follow the path of groups that have announced repentance and rejected acts of terrorism”.

“Hold on to moderate Islam and tolerance towards others,” and “reject false interpretations of ... jihad [holy war],” it said, addressing Muslim youths.

The conference urged Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries to encourage their children “to adopt a moderate understanding of Islam, respect for others and to comply with [local] laws”. It also urged the governments of those countries to respect the rights of Muslims and “treat them equally with other members of the community”. Saudi Arabia, which practises an ultra-conservative Wahhabi version of Islam, has in recent years cracked down on what it regards as extremist groups.

Al-Qaeda, which has been blamed for killing between 150 and 200 people in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006, has in particular been in the firing line.

King Abdullah last month said the kingdom was determined to halt extremism and a campaign was under way to try dissuade youths from joining Al-Qaeda.

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