How credible is a Saudi initiative on interfaith dialogue?

November 12, 2008

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. State Department lists as a “country of particular concern” because of its severe restrictions on religious freedom, is sponsoring talks at the United Nations in New York today and tomorrow on improving interfaith dialogue. Is this a credible exercise?

(Photo: King Abdullah with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. in New York, Nov 12, 2008)

Analysis leading up to the meeting has been full of reservations. Our Riyadh bureau chief Andrew Hammond noted that the influential religious establishment in Saudi Arabia shows scant support for the king’s initiative. Our Middle East news editor Samia Nakhoul quotes Saudi delegation member Jamal Khajoggi as saying “The king can change positions, he can hire and fire people but he cannot change the mind-set of people or the clerical establishment quickly. It has to be gradual.”

The most brutal assessment came from Ali al-Ahmed, a Washington-based Shiite Muslim dissident from Saudi Arabia quoted by the New York Times: “It’s like apartheid South Africa having a conference at the U.N. on racial harmony.”

King Abdullah has taken some pioneering steps for a Saudi monarch. At the same time, his country still restricts all religious activity except Wahhabi Islam severely.

Do you think King Abdullah is a credible sponsor for a conference on interfaith understanding?

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

This is right step by a powerfull and respected goverment of world of islam.But the method to start this diolouge is wrong.Being a leading islamic country it was duty of King of saudia Arabia to call an international conference of different sect and head of the state of the Islamic countries.They discussed the whole .They chalked out the plan .They elect the leader for diologe with the west.This step would be more fruitfull then the present one.
The present step taken by the Saudi goverment is more political than real intention to reach on a peacefull term with the west.the basic questio that comes in the mind of every muslim that why there should be a diolouge and for what purpose.What are the main hurdle in the starined relationship with west?Are they political?Are they religious?What are the ongoing political and religious tussles between west and Islamic world?What should be done to ease the tension?
There are certain political issue that increasing the tention between them.No Muslim around the world can accept the relation with the west without the solution of palestine problem and emergence of an idependent palestine state,the withdrawl of the western forces from the islamic countries like Afghanistan,Iraq even Saudia Arabia and the some limit on cultural and freedom of speech in the west to annihiliate the basic of Islam.Can Muslim accept the abuser of Mohammad sallaho alaihe wasallam and Islam as a co-partner in world?
As far as saudia is concerned all knows the very western appraoch of this from foundation of this modern state.At this movement,saudia wants a close west reltion to counter the Iranian hegemony in the middle east and the relation that Iran has in turmoil with the west.
Inspite of all this the world of islam want a peacefull realtion but on term of Equality,dignity and mutual cooperation.

Posted by mohammad allam | Report as abusive

If the King is opening a window to religious dialogue, we should welcome it instead of criticizing his initiative. Give the King a chance for heaven’s sake! It’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss religious matters in a peaceful manner. When people of different faiths can get together in a friendly way, it can lead to lessening tensions between groups. It can also lead to lessening persecutions of people of other faiths. It is an open door to all kinds of wonderful possibilities in the religious communities. Currently, in Saudi Arabia, Christians and people of other faiths cannot practice their faith publically. They have no civil rights, no freedom of religion. So, instead of shooting down the King’s initiative to dialogue about religious matters, we should definitely welcome it. Miracles can an do happen!

It is his majesty,that if the king of ‘Soudi-Arabia’,extends his hand towards democratizing the practice of religion among the different people belongs to different religious group.If such liberal environment is entertained by the king,’would be highly appreciable’to everyone.It would let him to be more credible as well as honourable in the democratic world,if he lifts up all barriers in this regard.