As this follow-up to the to the Saudi-led interfaith conference makes clear, the Wahhabis are more interested in presenting a better “image” than they are about making real reforms at home. Nor, apparently, do they intend to clarify their all-important theological positions — such as the function of jihad and what a sharia-based relationship with non-Muslims looks like — which, after all, is what much of the conflict revolves around; instead, they are looking for Westernized, English-speaking Saudis to represent the Wahhabi nation.
“Saudi Arabia to present new image at Madrid forum,” by Andrew Hammond, for Reuters, July 9:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia hopes to showcase a new more liberal face of its austere version of Sunni Islam at an unprecedented forum that will bring together Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy in Spain next week.
It marks a new direction for Saudi Arabia, whose “Wahhabi” Islam has come in for criticism internationally after the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001 in the United States, Riyadh’s main ally and guarantor of security since the 1940s.
Fifteen of the 19 Arabs who killed some 3,000 people were Saudis, acting in the name of Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Since then, Saudi rulers have embarked on a series of reforms to improve the image of a system in which the Saudi royal family rules in alliance with clerics who are given free rein to administer Islamic sharia law as they interpret it.
But a Riyadh-based diplomat said the wide net being cast regarding invitees, even those from Saudi Arabia, suggested there was significant opposition among Saudi clerics.
“It’s an international event with no potential for domestic reverberations,” he said, adding that few members of the government-appointed Higher Council of Religious Scholars have indicated they will attend.
Read: It’s meant to placate the non-Muslim world, not make real changes in the Muslim world, as what follows makes perfectly clear.
He said the list of invitees was governed by the desire to find Saudis who know the West and speak English rather than enjoy a reputation for knowledge of Islamic theology.