Can’t we all just get along?
According to the Associated Press, Saudi King Abdullah recently said that he plans on attending a meeting in November at the United Nations in New York to further his “initiative to promote interfaith dialogue.” The King further remarked that “extending Muslims’ hands to non-Muslims will help “˜purify” the reputation of Islam at a time when the world is criticizing the faith.”
Of course, none of this is new; Abdullah has been “reaching out” to infidels for some time now. Prior to the much touted interfaith conferences in Madrid, the Saudi monarch is said to have “made an impassioned plea for dialogue among Muslims, Christians, and Jews” “” going so far as to refer to the latter two as “our brothers.” The Jerusalem Post further wrote that such talks would be geared toward developing “respect among religions.”
The Arabian kingdom, however, is famous for tenaciously upholding and exporting “Wahhabism/Salafism,” that literalist brand of Islam that preaches absolutely no tolerance, murders apostates, and condemns all non-Muslims as infidels. It is also famous for having supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11, “educating” fellows such as Osama bin Laden, and boasting, of all things, a sword on its national flag. One can’t help but question the old monarch’s motives. Moreover, while the Saudi king was/is beguiling infidels with his calls for “dialogue,” that the textbooks of his kingdom are still instructing the youth of Saudi Arabia to hate all non-Muslims, is further demonstrative of Abdullah’s sincerity, or lack thereof.
Here’s another telling anecdote: days before the Madrid conferences, prominent Saudi Sheikh Abdul Rahman Barrak issued a death-fatwa against two Saudi writers. Their crime? They wrote articles in the Saudi paper Al-Riyadh questioning the Muslim position that holds all non-Muslims “” whom the Saudi king would otherwise call “brothers” “” as infidels. According to the Arab News, Barrak had said: “Anyone who claims this [that non-Muslims are not infidels] has refuted Islam and should be tried so that he can take it back. If not, he should be killed as an apostate from the religion of Islam.”
Does this mean that King Abdullah truly believes Christians and Jews are not infidels, and if so, does that also mean that Barrak should issue a fatwa for his life, for having apostatized?
At any rate, is the Saudi king aware that “dialogue” is supposed to be held by two or more singular participants who nonetheless genuinely believe that they share some basic human rights “” such as the freedom to practice whatever religion they wish without being molested? Only civilized peoples who are agreed to such fundamentals can move on to more temporal matters, such as territorial disputes (e.g., Israel/Palestine). But what is the point of having “dialogue” over secondary matters when the primary issues “” basic human rights “” are not endorsed by all participants?
In Saudi Arabia, the facts remain: native citizens who dare apostatize must be slain; absolutely no churches, synagogues, or any other symbol of non-Muslim worship (e.g., crosses, Stars of David, Bibles) is permitted on the peninsula; non-Muslims are barred from entering Mecca or Medina.
These are just the visible forms of intolerance practiced in the home of Islam and its founder. Theoretically “” or rather, theologically “” speaking, the juridical worldview of Islam is little better: whenever the opportunity presents itself, the whole world must be brought under Islamic rule, either willingly or by the sword, following the pattern of the Islamic prophet and the first “righteous” caliphs. What is even more troubling is that this Muslim view of world conquest isn’t merely a product of certain obscurantist schools of Islamic thought; nor is it a “hijacking” by Bin Laden and his likes. Rather, it is the codified worldview of all four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam. In fact, it is a communal duty (a fard kifaya) imposed on Muslims.
In light of all this, where exactly does Abdullah get the gall to call for “dialogue”? The measure of any community”s sincerity and tolerance toward the “Other” is how well that community treats the “Other” when the latter is under its authority.
In the United States, for example, Muslim minorities have the exact same rights “” to build places of worship (mosques), publicly carry their scriptures (Korans), to worship and proselytize, and, simply, to be Muslim “” as do Christians, Jews, and the rest. That is proof that the West is prepared for dialogue over ancillary matters: it has already visibly demonstrated that it firmly believes all humans are guaranteed basic rights.
Countries like Saudi Arabia evince no respect for basic human rights and freedoms. The contrast is amply demonstrated by the recent comments of one high ranking Saudi who said that “It would be possible to launch official negotiations to construct a church [note the singular] in Saudi Arabia only after the Pope and all the Christian churches recognize the prophet Muhammad” “” which of course would make all Christians Muslim.
How would Muslims react to a requirement that, to build mosques in the U.S., they must first publicly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?
Indeed, Saudi calls for dialogue are akin to the following hypothetical scenario: Imagine if the U.S. today enshrined, and enforced, laws in its Constitution maintaining that blacks are inferior to whites, and that, at best, they must be treated as second-class citizens. Then, despite the fact that the whole world is aware of these laws, despite the fact that blacks living outside the U.S. are constantly hearing about Americans persecuting blacks in the U.S., despite all that, imagine the U.S. also “reaching out” to powerful African nations, insisting that there is a need for “dialogue–”you know, to “clear things up” and (verbally) demonstrate how blacks are viewed as “brothers.”
Perhaps the greatest proof that the old king is being insincere is the fact that, in most of his ostensibly “multi-culti” speech, polytheists are conspicuously left out. Prior to Madrid, for instance, Abdullah continuously stressed that this dialogue is to be only with “our brothers in all religions which I mentioned, the Torah [Jews] and the Gospels [Christians].” If the Saudi king was honestly trying to promote religious tolerance around the world, why weren’t polytheists invited to the talks? Specifically, why weren’t Hindus invited, who also have a long and often bloody history with Islam, including territorial disputes (e.g., Kashmir) that continue to this day?
The theological reason is that polytheists (“al-mushrikun”) are held in an even worse position than Christians and Jews (whom the Koran refers alternatively to as “people of the Book,” but in the latter chapters and verses “” which take precedence, according to systems of abrogation “” as “infidels” who must be fought in perpetuity). So while Abdullah’s “brothers,” Jews and Christians, can in fact cling to their faiths (once subdued and made to live according to second-class, “dhimmi” status), polytheists must either convert, or die.
Still, it is evident that the king’s failure to reach out to Hindus is not so much due to theology””as we have seen, doctrinally speaking, Jews and Christians are marginally better””but rather that, while the king sees a need to reach out to the currently powerful Judeo-Christian West, he has no pressing need to reach out to Hindus.
Yet, if dialogue is meant to ameliorate conflict, shouldn’t Indians at the very least also be invited to these talks, since Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan””which, combined boast some 1.5 billion people””are, whenever the latter is not experiencing internal upheavals, sometimes on the brink of nuclear war? The answer is obvious: the Muslim brothers of Pakistan are enough of a stalwart, as they are both equally armed, and so there is, at this point, no need to “reach out” and touch those particular infidels.
While Abdullah’s “impassioned plea for dialogue” is certainly worthy of support, the starting point of that discussion must be the Muslim world’s treatment of the non-Muslims in their midst. Once Saudi Arabia affords basic human rights to non-Muslims “” not to mention Saudi citizens who simply wish to convert without being executed “” then dialogue over secondary matters can ensue. Until then, the Saudis have absolutely no place at the negotiation table and, if anything, should be ashamed of these continuous public displays of blatant hypocrisy.