Virtual Voices

Saudis call for interfaith dialogue

Religion

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is calling for a respectful dialogue between monotheistic "brothers in faith." He warned against atheism and the disintegration of the family, the loss of morals and decline of religion: "If God wills it, we will then meet with our brothers from other religions, including those of the Torah and the Gospel... to come up with ways to safeguard humanity."

He says the country's top clerics have given their permission to the plan. Coming from a country that bans non-Muslim religious services and executes Muslim apostates, this is encouraging news that Muslims, Jews and Christians all welcome.

AP says quotes Michael Cromartie, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religions Freedom: "It's a courageous thing for the king to do. … It's a start to have an open and free dialogue in a country with a reputation for religious oppression." The Jerusalem Post interviewed Rabbi Yona Metzger, who also expressed optimism: "If an imam in Saudi Arabia sends out a message of restraint and peace, that could save the life of a Jew in Paris."

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Saudi newspaper al-Jazirah welcomed the dialogue too: "The dialogue could clear up some facts about our religion, far from the distortions that extremists and fanatics have caused."

But Jihad Watch is still suspicious: "Islamic law is reciprocity-impaired when it comes to respect. It is not "respect" in the general sense; rather, Islam is to be respected, and will deal with other faiths according to what it believes is the divinely-ordained order of things." Reuters quotes others expressing skepticism that the dialogue will actually take place.

Still, the announcement may have mollified some during a week when religious tensions ran high. Geert Wilder released his anti-Islam short film this week. In the Netherlands, Muslims are rioting over anti-Islam cartoons, and there's a heated debate over the wisdom of Magdi Allam's public and defiant Easter baptism.

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