"It is our greatest duty today to correct the image of Islam in world public opinion," Rouhani told the audience at a conference in Teheran on Sunday.
Referring to atrocities committed by the terror organization "Islamic State" ("IS"), Rouhani asked: "Did we ever think that, instead of enemies, an albeit small group from the Islamic world using the language of Islam, would present it as the religion of killing, violence, whips, extortion and injustice."
"If some groups like Daesh can recruit soldiers, the reason is financial and cultural poverty," Rouhani said, referring to "IS" by its Arabic name. "Terrorism will not be destroyed by bombs," he insisted, suggesting that economic connections would foster unity within the Islamic world.
Rouhani also criticized Muslim nations for "being silent in the face of all the killing and bloodshed" in the region - including in Syria, Iraq and Yemen where Iran plays a role in the conflicts. Rouhani said the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are allegedly backed by Iran, had prompted a humanitarian crisis.
Iran is a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is battling rebels and militants of the "Islamic State" group. "IS" has occupied vast territories in Syria's north and east as well as in neighboring Iraq. In his speech on Sunday, Rouhani said that the Syria and Iraq conflicts only benefit Israel and "those who are against Muslims."
mg/se (AP, Reuters)