There are several angles to the choice of Spain for the site of this “dialogue”: One, obviously, is that it would be rather awkward to invite a large contingent of religious leaders to a place where they are forbidden from carrying bibles and other sacred texts, and from displaying religious symbols. And, of course, they certainly couldn’t hold the meeting in Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, since no non-Muslims are allowed there. That might lead to uncomfortable questions when one considers that Rome, Jerusalem, and other cities are open to all visitors.
But beyond that is Spain’s history as an Islamic possession and the trumped-up myth of the nearly utopian, Islamic Andalusia of yore; the idea of going back to those “good old days” will surely be a source for much of the propaganda that will come out of this Saudi-led venture.
What won’t happen is any meaningful, critical engagement of Islamic intolerance and the inequality of believers and unbelievers, and of men and women under Islamic law. In fact, the most likely result of this occasion will be a joint statement asserting that all major religions are peaceful and condemn the killing of “innocents” (a term always left undefined so that the uninitiated will assume the best), and that Islam “respects” other religions, so the rest of the world should straighten up, fly right, and respect Islam, too, and stop identifying it with oppression and terrorist acts. Thus, one can hardly call the event a dialogue; a more accurate term is “interfaith monologue.”
“Saudi-sponsored interfaith meet to be held in Spain,” from Reuters, June 21:
Saudi Arabia and Spain have agreed to hold an interfaith dialogue of Muslims, Christians and Jews in Madrid in July, Saudi media reported on Saturday. The dialogue will be held on July 16-18 by the Saudi-based World Muslim League.
“Prominent figures among followers of the divine messages will take part in dialogue concerning life in human societies, international cooperation, human rights, and issues of security, peace and living together in the world,” said a statement carried by the agency.