Inside the Middle East - Blog
March 25, 2008
Saudi King Says "Let's Talk"
Saudi King Abdullah is calling for interfaith dialogue among the world's three monotheistic religions. And yes, that means Judaism too.


The king is quoted as saying that "with God's help we will meet our brethren from other religions, including those who believe in the Torah and in the Gospel, in order to find ways to defend humanity."

This declaration, made by the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam - and by the leader of a country where non-Muslims are banned from practicing their religion - follows the anouncement of a state program aimed at "retraining" the country's clerics to remove militant sympathies from Saudi mosques.


Is this the beginning of an "Islam 2.0" or just lip service from the Saudi monarch?

What do you think? Email us at mideast@cnn.com or add a comment below.
It will be his way or no way. There is no dialog with Saudi Arabia. Look at the so-called Saudi middle east initiative. It includes a return of Pal refugees to Israel. In other words, the end of the State of Israel. The Saudis said to Israel: Take it or leave it, no negotiaons at all.

The same will happen with this "dialog". He will invite the Jews who embraced the madman from Teheran at the conference denying the holocast. And then he will brag about his achievement.

Ask him about the members of his family who fund terror, not about so-called and fake dialog!!!
There is no such thing as Islam 2.0. Probably the author of this blog follows umpteenth version of his/her religion, thats why its easy to allot version to religions. The dirty game being played by the US and Israel does'nt get any mentioning. BIas Blogs!!
I think that for a Saudi to propose this idea of anti-militancy and even speak outloud that Christians, nevermind Jews can somehow get along is really saying something for his character. Kudos to him. However, saying something and doing something about it are two different things.

Jason
I am optimistic that it is true progress towards religious tolerance and anti-militarism within the Islamic world. I firmly believe, however, that it would not even be up for discussion were it not for the US military presence in the region and perseverance exhibited by the Bush administration in using force in our attempt to neutralize Islamic based terrorism.

Tom - Newport Beach, CA
"Defend humanity" he said. Against what? Invaders from Mars?

When women are given full equality in law, when alcohol can be legally consumed by Westerners, and when Western ladies do not have to "cover-up", maybe, just maybe something can be achieved.

Until then, let's see what he actually means!
If true, this will likely mean the beginning of the end for King Abdullah. His internal opponents have been trying to find a way to bring down his regime, and this could be the issue a populist imam could use to unite the diverse Saudi groups now working with little success against the royal family.
Any attempts by the Saudi monarch to create the so called Islam 2.0 is only good enough story to be put on the front page of newspaper. Islam today is spread across a diverse range of ideologies, with some elements on a clash with the materialism and others with fundamentalism.
With such a situation existing, Muslims today are distributed into autonomous and independent camps, each camp with its own leadership.

In the presence of such an "anarchy," any attempts by a monarch with grasp on only a tiny proportion of Muslims, is unlikely to bring a change on the world 1.5 billion Muslims.
Abdallah's comments indicate a willingness for " dialogue " about religion. Would his newfound bonhomie also include dialouge regarding free press, free speech, equal rights for women, and transparency of government, his own ? If so, then he's serious, if not, then it was a brief moment of clarity.
King Abdullah is a very smart diplomat with wisdom and vision.
Jewish pilots will definitely come to the rescue of the Saudis in case the Iranians will go wild. Air corridors, landing and refueling facilities in Saudi Arabia are essentials for the survival of both countries and His Majesty is just opening the door. What appear to be mystic is actually realism . And time is running out before the Iranians will have their missiles loaded with nuclear warheads .
I do not believe that the Saudis want to really discuss the basic believes of Islam.
As it is their conviction that only the Coran holds the truth but that if Moslems cannot force their views they can hide their real intentions for beneficial compromises until they are strong enough to force their will.
I believe, that this is what is happening.
Respectfully, Udo Mauske
This is an enormous thing for the King to say and I don't think it is said lightly or without careful thought.

It is a courageous move and the King should be supported by all moderate thinking people.
Rest assured that the Saudi's are a very perceptive group. As has been intimated by several comments from the Saudi Royal family, they recognize that there will be a life after oil. World economic pressures favor development of the non-oil economy and if the Saudis will retain the power and wealth they now enjoy in the oil-independent era, they too will need to adjust. Fifty years may seem a lifetime, but if the Saudis are to prosper in the last half of the 21st century, they must learn to work with the non-muslim world. In the end, this unyielding feature of survival is the true motivation for the King's recent remarks.
Only facts will prove weather it is for real.

Let him invite a high ranking Vatican personality and a high ranking Israeli clergy to talk.

And then, if he does that, can he survive what will be coming ??

Only future can tell.

Peter Holland – Toronto - Canada
However his statement may be intrerpreted or ment. I think that this is wonderfull. Probably we will have a new era of peacefull time for ouerselfs and for ouer children too.

cannolosiciliano@web.de
We belive in the same God, in almost the same values, so any dialogue that aim to bring compassion and a little more humanity and trust to this world is needed. I am a Muslim and I think really that other relegions need to have some trust and not to be agressive to the great values of Islam.
Islam is one as God is one.
Talking about Islam in general in the same breath as discussing the situation in Saudi Arabia can be misleading. Not all Muslims are Arab, and not all Arabs are Wahabi. There are many progressive and modern countries that are populated primarily by Muslims.

Saudi Arabia is a feudal Bedouin Kingdom, and many of its societal rules (i.e. women being required to wear an Abaya when going outside and not being allowed to drive a car) stem from this situation, not because of Islam.

However, a great number of Saudis have been outside the Kingdom and know what it is like to live in a modern society. More and more Saudis want to have a modern lifestyle when in Saudi Arabia as well. On the other hand, the Saudi Royal Family depends on a restrictive, repressive society in order to hang on to its power.

There is growing pressure from the general populace to liberalize Saudi society, and this pressure will soon reach the point of explosion. In the meantime, the Wahabists have eliminated almost every form of activity not directly related to work or the practice of religion. There are not even any movie theaters in Saudi Arabia.

Because most people have little choice in the activities they can legally participate in, they become a ripe recruiting ground for extremist groups. Virtually every week, there are bombings and firefights in Riyadh between the Saudi Government and these extremists.

Now there is a new problem - a war that is being fought between Sunni and Shiite Muslims for dominance in the world of Islam. Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shiite) are the principal opponents in this conflict, which is currently being fought by proxy in Iraq. This conflict has the potential to become a conflagration that consumes the entire Middle East, and consequently have very grave consequences for the rest of the world. I believe the King understands this and is looking for ways to be able to forestall such a catastrophe. The question is whether this can be done without upsetting the stability of the current Saudi Government.

I believe that the US, as a key player in the Middle East, should gently urge Saudi Arabia towards more liberalization while also reversing its current policy of isolation towards Iran. Both countries have very intelligent and sensible people who I am sure do not want a meltdown, but they cannot be heard when both of these ships of state are being steered by radical, polarized minorities within their own countries.
The problem with this proposal is with the role of the king himself i have the honour to say i have been reading the quran in the last few year i have not come accross were women are told they could not drive car for example if women were allowed to follow Priphet to war at the earlier days of islam were did all these rules against W
No no no, its not the religions (Islam or Jews/christains) its the greed for money for individuals. Look at wars, its all linked to money one way or another. Company shares, defence contracts, kick backs, fraud, goverment corruption, its all about this. People in the middle east are upset at the corruption. People cling onto something that'snot there.
Yes, its the King (and the entire KSA royal family). Its not Islam. Islam's two holiest sites are in KSA, and the Saudi royal family's power is based on them being the "custodians" of these sites, and by extension, the Sunni Islam religion.

Islam teaches its adherents to respect their women. It does not teach that women should be kept as chattel, which is disrespectful to them. At least women in KSA are not required to wear Burkas such was the case in Afganistan under the Taliban (and were sometimes beaten to death for briefly revealing their faces so they could breath in 40+ C degree weather).

And yes, it is unfortunately very true that throughout history, religion has been the justification used for countless wars and atrocities that have been committed time and again. No religion that I know of is innocent of this. But if religion was not available to be used, other methods and means would be employed by the megalomaniacs in this world to grasp and hold onto power.

We have major problems to deal with that affect the entire world, such as population, peak oil, global warming, etc. We need to find a way to put the "old ways" behind us and focus on a better future for EVERYONE.
The extremetism that exists in the Middle East I believe will never lessen until oppressive governments are eliminated. Unfortunately those governments like Saudi Arabia have the support of America.

I'm doing a project in school which involves dialoguing with Arabs, Muslim or Christian, if interested please e-mail me at juliana.kralik@gmail.com.
You left one little tiny detail out of you blog entry on King Abdullah's call for interfaith dialog with Jews and Christians. Jews cannot legally enter Saudi Arabia. They can't set one foot on Saudi Arabian soil. How and where can this dialog take place? It certainly cannot happen in Saudi Arabia.

Susan Stein

Philadelphia, PA

USA
The Saudi King has at least, and at the very best, invited the Blessings of God, first to the meeting. May the other attendees ask of God, that he accompany them to the meeting, and may God's will be in attendence.
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