The situation in Saudi Arabia itself proves that this outfit, the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (you can't make this stuff up), is nothing but an outpost for dawah, or Islamic proselytizing, and deception. If it is good for anything, it sets up a glaring study in contrasts between Sharia as advertised, in this "interfaith" scam in Vienna, and Sharia as observed, in Saudi Arabia.
Caveat emptor. "Saudi-backed religious tolerance center opens," by George Jahn for the Associated Press, October 13:
VIENNA (AP) — Saudi Arabia inaugurated an interfaith center in Vienna Thursday and its foreign minister said he hoped the spirit of tolerance embodied by the new institution will help change his conservative Muslim country, which prohibits any religion except Islam.
If in 1683 you don't succeed, try, try again. "War is deceit," Muhammad said.
The statement by Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was an unusually clear declaration of intent by Saudi Arabia's rulers to work for religious and societal reforms from abroad in the face of domestic opposition to rapid change.
The center has ignited debate. Backers hope it will promote increased tolerance in Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that now prohibits any religion outside of Islam. Detractors, including Austria's Green party and moderate Muslim groups in Austria say the Saudis are the last people who should be hosting initiatives on religious coexistence.
If the goal is to change Saudi Arabia, they might consider trying it in, say, Saudi Arabia.
Ahead of Thursday's inauguration ceremonies, the daily Der Standard cited Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee as criticzing Saudi plans to exercise initial leadership oversight of the institution, saying it had to be "totally independent."
Wahhabism — the strain of Sunni Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia — is considered one of the religion's most conservative. Some of its tenets were hijacked by Osama bin Laden and other terrorists to justify their acts.
Strict interpretations of the faith have left Saudi women without the right to drive or to go out without permission from a male relative. They have also have tattered ties with Islam's other major branch, Shiism, that have exposed deep rivalries between Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shiite Iran.
The Sunni-Shi'ite jihad is not the invention of either country, of course.
Relations reached a new low this week after U.S. allegations that Iran was behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
In Vienna to launch the interfaith center, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal accused Tehran of "murder and mayhem" and said his country is working on a "measured response" to the purported Iranian assassination attempt.
But most of his comments focused on the "King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue" — and he appeared keen to dispel skepticism about his country's commitment to make it a focal point of interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
In an unsually fortright [sic] statement reflecting the Saudi leadership's push for change, the minister said he hoped "the center will take the lead" in making Saudi Arabia a more tolerant society.
How exactly is that supposed to work again?
"Saudi Arabia is willing to financially participate in this project, and to place all its moral and political resources behind such a center, without infringing ... on its autonomy or independence from any political interference," he told officials and reporters.
And he warned against "extremist minorities within every religious and cultural community ... seeking ... to propagate notions of intolerance, exclusion, racism and hatred.
Picked up a Saudi textbook lately?
"These tiny minorities," he said, "are trying to hijack and disrupt the legitimate identities and aspirations of people of all cultures and faiths."
The founding document cites principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, "in particular, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." It emphasizes "human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."
Its board will consist of three Christians, three Muslims, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindu....
So, two thirds of the board could not openly practice their religion in Saudi Arabia. Tell us again which country is really in need of a brand spankin' new tolerance institute.