More interest in Saudi king’s inter-faith talks idea

May 27, 2008

Saudi King Abdullah, 20 May 2008/Ho NewRemember that unexpected comment that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah made in March that he wanted to hold an inter-faith dialogue with Christians and Jews? The Vatican welcomed it and the Tel Aviv newspaper Yedioth Ahronot reported that Saudi muftis were sending out feelers to Israeli rabbis about attending such talks, a report which was swiftly denied in Riyadh.

FaithWorld’s take on it at the time was sceptical. As Andrew Hammond in Riyadh wrote: “The king is seen in Saudi Arabia as a reformer but one who has been outmaneuvered by the powerful religious establishment and their allies in the royal family. The interfaith conference call may be a kind of trial balloon launched to see what kind of reaction it gets in a country where liberals and religious conservatives are engaged in an ideological struggle for the future of Saudi Arabia.”

The World Jewish Congress issued a statement on Monday welcoming the king’s proposal. It quoted WJC President Ronald Lauder as saying many obstacles still stood in the way but “King Abdullah’s initiative is a laudable step forward. We hope that other religious and political leaders throughout the world will be encouraged to join.” WJC Governing Board Chairman Matthew Bronfman added: “The World Jewish Congress is ready to participate in any serious inter-faith talks that are based on mutual respect.”

WJC President Ronald Lauder at Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, 1 Oct 2007/Tobias SchwarzAnother Tel Aviv newspaper, Haaretz, took this a step further today with a story saying: “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has sent an invitation to the World Jewish Congress for an interfaith dialogue with Muslim and Christian leaders, Haaretz has learned.” Now that would be news … if it were confirmed. But the WJC promptly denied the report, saying it had not received anything. The positive statement was issued now because the WJC steering committee just held its first meeting since Abdullah’s proposal and discussed it there.

The idea that Saudi Arabia would invite Christians and Jews to Islam’s heartland for “conferences between the religions to protect humanity from folly,” as Abdullah put it, is clearly too tempting for the Tel Aviv newspapers to ignore. But is it realistic to expect the Saudis to host such talks? Let us know what you think.


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King Abdullah’s invitation sounds like a winning idea and its good to see the Power Brokers supporting it.

O’seh Shalom .

Hooray for mutual respect and coexistence.

Posted by Jedavra | Report as abusive

I applaud King Abdullah’s courage in making such a statement. It’s about time that we Muslims come to grasp the truth for what it is. We have for too long, allowed the true message to Islam to be tainted through significant misinterpretations for political gains and unholy justifications.

Judaism and Christianity are as valid and true as Islam is. As a muslim, I sincerely hope that this process yields what all religions preach. Respect.

Posted by hishmo | Report as abusive

I am what I am, an American. I don’t think that I am an arrogant American though. I’m more like a middle-of-the-road type who abhors extremism from both the right and the left.

That setting the stage, here goes.

As with many things that happen every four years in the United States…what happens around that time in other places is also interesting.

Frankly, I don’t have the time to make myself totally conversant on what is going on everywhere in the world. Who does? However, I do feel like I’m reasonably informed, and from that base I form my opinions.

All of this “touchy-feely” stuff coming out of SW Asia is completely in keeping with the interesting happenings associated with a U.S. presidential election year. This is especially true this year…because of all that has transpired in the last 7 years in Iraq and in Afghanistan (and elsewhere in southwest and south-central Asia) since the World Trade Center disintegrated before our eyes on September 11, 2001.

This business of a Muslim king sitting on an ocean of oil wanting to better understand Jews and Christians all of a sudden…well, how interesting.

Not to mention all of what I hear about the Jews wanting to get along better with the Muslim powers to be in Syria (i.e., the Golan Heights). And didn’t I also hear some talk about the Jews putting out feelers to the Muslim powers to be in Egypt concerning Gaza?

What I don’t hear, of course, is that the Jews (supported by many U.S. Christians on the right) might want to pull out of the West Bank. That’s because I don’t believe they do…which leads me to believe that they don’t really want to pull out of the Golan Heights…and that they might have future designs on Gaza (again).

Likewise, something tells me that said Muslim king would just as soon see the few Jews left in the world someplace far, far away from Palestine (as the Muslims prefer to call it).

Let’s see what all these folks are saying (or keeping silent on) after November, shall we?

I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I’m just going to kick back for awhile.


Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

As one who has recently begun studying the history and political landscape of the country caring for the Sacred City, I am not at all surprised by King Abdullah’s public statements on a mutually respectful religious discourse between the world’s 3 interconnected monotheisms. If I am interpreting this correctly, the King may have/might believe this sentiment wholeheartedly, but it was not, as first assumed, a direct invitation to begin such talks, especially within Saudi Arabia. The statement, I’m sure, was meant as a sort of challenge to the stalwartly religious factions of his government (his family) and a rebuke to those who have sought years worth of silence towards such ideas. It is more heartening to note the changes of ideas WITHIN the Kingdom, more than a comment directed towards international change, such as the King’s statement that women will be allowed to drive in the KSA by this time next year. Before Saudi Arabia’s demeanor towards its neighbors can change in any drastic manner, its interior must first initiate change.

Posted by Elena | Report as abusive

Human rights are paramount to any seriously outreaching person.

Get that right and maybe his Highness will advance his ideas with more authority.

Posted by The Truth Is… | Report as abusive