Friday, March 28, 2008

Saudi Arabia: Muslim leaders welcome royal call for interfaith-dialogue

The Saudi proposal for dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews is the first for a country that has no official ties with Israel and bans non-Muslim religious services and symbols.

Rome, 26 March (AKI) - Islamic religious leaders have welcomed Saudi King Abdullah's plea on Monday for dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews, according to a report on the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.

The proposal for such a dialogue comes amid anger expressed by some Muslims at Pope Benedict XVI's baptism at Easter of a Muslim journalist, Magdi Allam, who had converted to Catholicism.

Allam's papal baptism was referred to as "a controversial act" and an "honest intellectual mistake" by certain Muslim leaders.

Among the Muslim religious leaders that have supported King Abdullah's proposal for interfaith dialogue is the secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Akmal Ihsan Oglo.

"All of humanity needs the dialogue that has been suggested by the Saudi king with the objective to save the nations," he was quoted as saying in the Al-Hayat report.

"The dialogue however must be based on mutial respect. And it is necessary to fix a clear agenda and learn from previous experiences on the dialogue in order avoid past mistakes."

According to the secretary general of the World Muslim League, Abdel Muhsin al-Turki, Saudi Arabia, where Islamic Sharia law is enforced, is capable of "teaching that Islam is a religion that brings with it a message of goodness, love, justice and peace even in a moment in which the faith has had to deal with a media campaign that has offended the principles and basis of which it is founded."

He said that Islam has to "reject the attacks that aim to give a negative image of its principles and which what to make it the basis on terrorism which it instead is trying to fight".

The well-known legal Islamic consultant, Abdel Muhsin al-Abikan, a member of the consultative council of the Saudi kingdom, said that the "appeal by King Abdullah for dialogue is positive because Islam will certainly be useful to it and in this way will be able to defend itself against attacks that it has had to deal with and demonstrate the real face of its believers to those of other religions".

The Saudi king's plea also received support from the Egyptian ulema or religious leaders.

"The world at this moment needs this dialogue," said the professor of Muslim rights at the Al-Azhar university in Cairo, Saad Sabah.

"However we must fix the principles and the limits in which these talks can be held because previous attempts at dialogue have all failed for not having had this basis," he said.

"Everything was thrown to the wind. Instead of defending Islam we must instead establish some common points to suggest as the basis of the dialogue," he said.

The Saudi King made his proposal for dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews, during a conference in Riyadh on dialogue between the Islamic world and Japan.

He referred to the tensions that have led to misunderstanding between the various cultures and civilisations of the world and explained that this proposal is aimed at "saving humanity from decadence".

King Abdullah said that he had already spoken to Pope Benedict XVI about the idea during his visit to the Vatican in November last year and he said that the pope "shared" the sentiment.

"I would like to thank the pontiff for the way in which I was welcomed," he was quoted as saying on Al-Hayat.

"It was a meeting between one man and another."

The Saudi proposal is the first for a country that has no official ties with Israel and bans non-Muslim religious services and symbols.

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