Saudi calls for “inter-faith” dialogue must be seen for what they plainly are: attempts to curry international, particularly Western, favor, vis-Ã -vis the monarchy”s more “radical” countrymen, who threaten to overthrow it.
“Saudi king set to lead rare interfaith talks in Spain,” by Caryle Murphy for the Christian Science Monitor, July 8:
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – In a first for a Saudi Arabian leader, King Abdullah will convene a conference in Madrid as part of a Saudi outreach to defuse interfaith tensions, improve Islam’s image, and restore respect for religious values.
King Abdullah’s initiative — a three-day meeting starting July 16 that will include Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives of Eastern religions — stands out among interfaith gatherings that have become commonplace in the post-9/11 world.
Not only is Saudi Arabia the birthplace of Islam, but it also is the wellspring of an austere, exclusivist version of Sunni Islam. Sometimes called Wahhabism, it bans the open practice of other faiths in the kingdom and tends to reject inter-religious dialogue with non-Muslim “infidels.”
So by calling for an inter-faith dialogue, is the Saudi king in essence rejecting “Wahhabism,” or, as the average Saudi understands by that term, Islam?
Ever since the kingdom experienced its own terrorist attacks in 2003-04, however, Abdullah and other officials have been stressing a more moderate, tolerant expression of their faith, sometimes over opposition from hard-liners in the religious establishment. [“¦]
Note that the Saudis have been stressing “moderation” only after they too were targeted. Sure puts a big question mark on the old monarch’s sincerity.
Some observers see the international conference — first broached by Abdullah in March — as a way to strengthen his hand against extremist elements at home. [“¦]
Hastily organized in the past month, the conference is not expected to achieve breakthroughs in the wide array of mutual grievances roiling relations between the Islamic world and the West, ranging from cartoons regarded as blasphemous by Muslims, to restrictions on religious freedoms in some Islamic countries, to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […]
It’s not supposed to. As all the above makes clear, this is simply about further legitimizing the Saudis vis-Ã -vis their “extra” radical kinsmen.
Spain was chosen as the conference site, Saudi officials said, because of its historical symbolism as a place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in relative peace under Islamic rule from the 8th to the 13th centuries.
Whether or not “Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in relative peace under Islamic rule” in Andalusia, and there is considerable evidence that this was not the case, the only question to the Saudi monarch and all his kinsmen is: Does your creed””call it Wahhabism, Salafism, or simply Islam””allow for the peaceful co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims, and under total equality? Or is it true, as your sacred texts and most authoritative ulema all maintain, that Islam must dominate the globe? That should be the only question debated at these so-called inter-faith dialogues, since everything else hinges on the answer.
Given the Saudi religious community’s suspicions toward non-Muslims and deep hostility toward Israel, it would have been extremely difficult to hold the event in Saudi Arabia.
And so here we go: after all those wonderful allusions to Andalusia and inter-religious tolerance, we get this””” suspicions toward non-Muslims and deep hostility toward Israel.” Back to reality.