Spain: Saudi King Abdullah is in Madrid for the World Conference for Dialogue
Spanish King and Queen and the Crown Prince and his wife have offered a dinner in Madrid’s Royal Palace in honor to the Saudi Arabian King, Abdalá Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who has arrived this afternoon in Spain to take part tomorrow in the World Conference for Dialogue.
Christian Science Monitor has already published an article about these “rare interfaith talks in Spain”:
King Abdullah’s initiative – a three-day meeting starting July 16 that will include Muslim, Christian, and Jewish clerics, as well as representatives of Eastern religions – stands out among interfaith gatherings that have become commonplace in the post-9/11 world.
(…) “It’s very difficult to deal with [the radicals]) on an intellectual basis, to open up their minds,” says Shiite political activist Jafar Al Shayeb. “So having these Muslim scholars from all different parts of the world pushing for a more tolerant course, I think will help the government in dealing with radical groups internally.”
Hastily organized in the past month, the conference is not expected to achieve breakthroughs in the wide array of mutual grievances roiling relations between the Islamic world and the West, ranging from cartoons regarded as blasphemous by Muslims, to restrictions on religious freedoms in some Islamic countries, to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Its advertised agenda focuses on the importance of dialogue and “how to preserve morality,” says Hassan Al Ahdal, media director at the Mecca-based Muslim World League, which is organizing the event.
(…) Who would represent the Jewish faith at the conference has been a matter of deep interest since Saudi Arabia, like most Arab countries, does not recognize Israel. Jewish organizations have welcomed Abdullah’s call for interfaith dialogue while insisting that Israeli Jews be included.
(…) Nihad Awad, founding executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the venue demonstrates that the Saudis are willing to meet Western religious leaders on their home turf.
“It’s good to bring people in [to Saudi Arabia]; however, we want more Muslim scholars and leaders to go and interact with Western intellectuals, and Spain is a good choice to start with as it represents a place of interfaith tolerance historically,” says Mr. Awad, who recently met Abdullah. “The fact that the king is going is a powerful statement that he’s investing in this personally and wants it to succeed.”
Rabbi Rosen, who also serves as chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, had a different view, writing that holding the conference in Saudi Arabia would have given it “far greater significance both in the Muslim world and in the ‘West.’ “
So, if nothing is going to be achieved, what are they meeting for? To eat 19 dishes too?