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Saudis Call for Interfaith Dialogue Hypocritical

ICC Note

“Despite his efforts to foster interfaith dialogue, King Abdullah doesn’t appear to embrace religious pluralism in his own country. While in his country no faith is allowed to have their own worship temples, the Saudis have spent billions of dollars building fancy mosques all over the world. ”

By Sami Alrabaa

08/18/2008 Saudi Arabia (Europe News)-Uninvited and curious, I attended the latest Saudi sponsored conference on “interfaith dialogue”, July 16 in Madrid/Spain. A Spanish former colleague, Professor Raphael Redondo facilitated my attendance.

In his inaugural speech, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called on of the world’ major faiths “to run away from extremism and seek reconciliation”.

King Abdullah said:

I’m bringing you a message from Saudi Arabia , the land of the Two Holy Mosques. This message declares that Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance, a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of all religions, a message that promises to open a new page for humanity in which, Allah willing, concord will replace conflict.

This is laughable and ludicrous. What and whose extremism and tolerance is Abdullah talking about? It is his country that is fostering extremism and intolerance. Till this day, Saudi schoolbooks, the local media, and mosques daily preach hatred and violence against other faiths. For example, Lorenzo, a Philippine worker who was carrying a cross around his neck was jailed and tortured for six years, then, a month ago, he was deported.

Professor Redondo told El Pais daily (July 17), he doubted the Saudi’s motives. “A meeting like this with Saudi Arabia is an insult to the intelligence of every human being, it is a naïve political trick.” He said:

The Saudis are using the conference to lie to the West that they are tolerant of others when everybody knows non-Muslims have zero rights in Saudi Arabia .

Holding the conference in Spain , not in Saudi Arabia , has a clear purpose. The Spanish daily El Pais (July 18) interpreted the choice of Madrid as

An attempt to avoid a real debate in Saudi Arabia where no one (among the non-Muslim participants at the conference) would have been able to practice their religion.

Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country in the world that bans all non-Muslims from practicing their religion on its soil, even though it has a large community of expatriates professing other faiths. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca . Critics of the conference pointed out that the Spanish venue was a deliberate move to deflect domestic criticism from Wahabbi clerics who vehemently oppose other faiths than Sunni Islam and reject any kind of interfaith.

Michael Lawrence, an Islam expert form NYU, said, “Despite his efforts to foster interfaith dialogue, King Abdullah doesn’t appear to embrace religious pluralism in his own country. While in his country no faith is allowed to have their own worship temples, the Saudis have spent billions of dollars building fancy mosques all over the world. A groups of Christians language teachers who were celebrating Christmas last year in Kind Saud University compound were denounced and deported on the spot. They were not even allowed to collect their belongings. ”

Now, the West is soaked in a huge dilemma. It is aware that the Saudi regime and its Wahabbi establishment are cultivating religious extremism. But the West also needs the Saudi oil and the Saudi petrodollars. Arms deals are the most lucrative venue through which the West can get the excessive cash of the Saudi. The British have concluded an arms deal of $ 20 billion and the Americans a similar one. The Saudis are thinking of concluding one with the Russians.

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