Saudis invite terrorists to interfaith dialogue conference -Iranians bash America
June 5, 2008
"Several senior Shiite figures were invited to the conference, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon's Hezbollah, which was strongly criticized by Saudi Arabia for overrunning mostly Sunnis areas in Beirut last month".
For more on the Saudis interfaith iniative see:
The Saudis Deceptive Religious Reform Proposal
Saudi king opens conference on interfaith dialogue
By DONNA ABU-NASR – 17 hours ago
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's king urged a gathering of Muslim scholars Wednesday to open religious dialogue with Christians and Jews. But politics intruded as a senior Iranian figure said the Islamic world should stand up to the U.S. and its "international arrogance."
King Abdullah spoke at the start of a three-day conference of Islamic scholars, clerics and other figures in the holy city of Mecca called to get Muslims on the same page before the kingdom launches a landmark initiative for talks with adherents of other monotheistic faiths.
The tone was one of reconciliation between Islam's two main branches, Sunni and Shiite. Abdullah, one of Sunni Islam's most prominent figures, entered the hall with Shiite Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who later sat at the king's left in a gesture of unity.
But while Rafsanjani spoke warmly of his host, he also highlighted the political divide between their nations by delivering pointed criticism of America, a Saudi ally. He accused the U.S. of greedily trying to control the region's oil and said Muslims should resist it.
Saudi Arabia has presented its dialogue proposal as a strictly religious initiative — an opportunity to ease tensions within Islam and between it and Christianity and Judaism.
Still, the initiative has political implications, coming from a Mideast heavyweight that does not have diplomatic ties with Israel. Jewish leaders have generally praised Abdullah's proposal, though it is not clear if Israeli Jewish leaders will be invited to take part.
Participants say they hope the gathering will culminate in an agreement on a global Islamic charter on dialogue with Christians and Jews. They expect Saudi Arabia to make a formal call for an interfaith dialogue at the conference's close or soon after.
The initiative also represents a move by Abdullah to present oil-rich Saudi Arabia as a force for moderation in the region, despite the kingdom's adherence to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam and its religious restrictions at home, including a ban on non-Muslim religious services and symbols.
In his opening speech, Abdullah told the 500 delegates from around 50 Muslim nations that Muslims must do away with the dangers of extremism to present Islam's "good message" to the world.
"You have gathered today to tell the whole world that ... we are a voice of justice and values and humanity, that we are a voice of coexistence and a just and rational dialogue," he said.
He said the Islamic world faces difficult challenges from the extremism of some Muslims, whose aggressions "target the magnanimity, fairness and lofty aims of Islam."
The Saudi outreach to Iran and Shiites was significant.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and mainly Shiite Iran are uneasy as the two rivals for influence in the Middle East stand on opposite sides of political divides in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Wahhabi ideology also considers Shiites to be infidels, and days before the conference hard-line Saudi clerics issued a statement harshly denouncing Shiites.
Several senior Shiite figures were invited to the conference, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon's Hezbollah, which was strongly criticized by Saudi Arabia for overrunning mostly Sunnis areas in Beirut last month.
The three leaders did not show up, but Fadlallah, who is recovering from a minor operation, sent his son, Sayyed Ali Fadlallah. In addition, two prominent sheiks from Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority attended.
By inviting Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president who now heads two powerful clerical governing bodies, Saudi Arabia signaled it doesn't have a problem with Shiites it sees as moderates.
Rafsanjani is believed to be on good terms with Abdullah, and the two men worked to repair relations between their countries in the 1990s.
Acknowledging his closeness to Abdullah, Rafsanjani referred to the Saudi monarch as "a very dear personality" in his speech.
He also spoke of the growing Sunni-Shiite split, saying that before Muslims speak with adherents of other religions, they must patch up their differences. "It's a sin to have conflicts," he said.
But Rafsanjani also underlined Iran's differences with Saudi Arabia, saying Muslims should stand up to the United States and not let it gain control of the natural resources of Muslim countries — a pointed comment in oil giant Saudi Arabia, a key ally of Washington.
"Why should this tremendous group (Muslims) be weak before the International Arrogance?" Rafsanjani said, using a common term among Iranian leaders for the U.S. "We do not want to use force or to be unjust, but we don't want to hand over our rights to others."
The U.S. is "greedy ... and (wants) to control our countries and to pressure us and plunder our wealth and resources," he said.
MIM: In 2002 a Muslim World League delegation visited the United States.
MWL officials visited the office of the Council on American Islamic Relations and Al Turki pledged funding.
Muslim World League Delegation Tours U.S. Cities
By Dina Rashed – IOL Chicago Correspondent
CHICAGO, July 2, (IslamOnline ) - A delegation of distinguished Muslim scholars representing the Muslim World League organization is currently visiting the four major American cities of New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles in a goodwill mission to build bridges with American officials, leaders of religious groups. Its mission is to bring better understanding between Islam, Muslims and the American people to reverse some of the negative effects facing American Muslim communities intensified by the September 11th tragedy.
The delegation headed by H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al-Turki, Secretary General of the MWL concluded its visit to the New York city, and is currently in Chicago, IL carrying out several meetings with members of the FBI and other law enforcement officials. They are also meeting with members of the Academia, Interfaith communities and Muslim community leaders of various Islamic centers.
"The purpose of the delegation is to extend a hand of friendship and to create a dialogue among Muslims and non-Muslims and to reach out to organizations in the U.S. which has shared values between various nations and particularly in relation to Islam," were the opening remarks of Dr. Al-Turki as translated from Arabic by Dr. Ahmad Turkistani, a member of the delegation and the Director of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America. "Islam is a universal message, that is open to all people regardless of their background," stressed Dr. Al-Turki addressing attendees of the press conference that was held in Chicago on Monday morning.
Answering IslamOnline's question on the progress of communication with officials of law enforcement authorities, Dr. Ahmad Kamal Abulmagd Commissioner of the Civilizational Dialogue in the Arab League, said that there has been a constant contact since day one of the delegation's arrival, as several meetings were held with New York officials. He added that another meeting with Chicago's city officials was concluded early Monday morning where they met with the Regional Head of FBI and representatives from Chicago's INS, State Attorney's office.
"It was a two way dialogue where both sides listened to suggestions about how to minimize the negative challenges facing Muslim communities," said Abulmagd pointing out that such meetings are expected to continue throughout their tour.
"We were assured that all citizens of the U.S. will be treated equally regardless of their religion, color or race. We are assured that Muslims should not bear a collective guilt because of the events of September 11th ," added Dr.Al-Sheick Ahmad Lemu, President of the Islamic Educational Endowment in Nigeria and another delegate.
Dr. Lemu then raised the issue of the responsibility of the American press towards American Muslims, and wondered why there is a tendency in several media reports to generalize and associate Islam and all the Muslims with negative actions that could be undertaken by few individuals who happen to be Muslims. He said that it is the responsibility of the media to cover Islam as portrayed and thought of by the majority of Muslims and not what a few consider to be Islamic teachings.
Dr. Abulmagd indicated that it is part of their mission to contact the American media and to carry out a similar dialogue. The delegation has met with the New York Times editorial board, and they are also scheduled to meet with the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, he said. "We are hopeful but we are not dreamers we realize that this is a drop in a sea of efforts. But the more dialogue there is the better a chance to spread the truth, because the media shapes the hearts and the minds of millions of people even the highly educated people," he said.
But another member of the delegation was more critical of the representation of Muslims in American media. "Unfortunately we live in a world of entertainment where exciting news is better received by the audience than the good news," said Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who criticized the American media for what he said to be a monopoly on righteousness. He explained that the media reports and the news highlight the positive stories of people of other religious backgrounds more than stories involving Muslims therefore building an assumption that such groups hold a monopoly over the good deeds as if Islam and Muslims have no right to be ethical or righteous.
Using the term fundamentalist to describe Muslims at large, several delegates rebuffed its irresponsible use in the American media. Dr. Abulmagd explained that the word has specific connotation as it came about in the English terminology within a particular Christian context and that its translation in the Arabic language does not bear the same meanings or connotations, therefore its use is misleading and confusing.
"The word fundamentalist as understood by the common people now and not the scholars, is understood as something intolerant, something irrational and something leaning to violence, and all of these things are not Islamic. Islam is not intolerant, Islam is not irrational and Islam is not leaning to violence, that's why we have a problem with this term," said Dr. Muzamil Siddiqi, former President of ISNA and currently President of the Orange County Islamic Center in California.
Commenting on the role of Muslims in American society, Mr. Ahmad Al-Hattab, Deputy Secretary General of Islamic Society of North America, emphasized the fact that Muslims living in America are loyal citizens of this country, and that Islam does not represent a threat to this nation. "It is becoming more and more a part and particle of the American soil, the American culture and heritage," he said, "The impact of Muslims in this country is so positive; whenever we establish a new Islamic Center or a new Islamic school, by statistical figures, the crime rate decline in these areas. Muslims of this country are joining hands to their fellows Christians, Jews and any sincere members of this society to build a much better future."
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, though not affiliated with the MWL has acted as dynamic vehicle behind organizing the delegation's meetings in Chicago.
"Today we are pleased to have this delegation of internationally respected scholars and clerics who are recognized all over the Muslim World. They are the voice of Islamic tolerance and of moderation, this is the voice of moderate Islam, this is the voice of universal peace that Islam represent," Said Kareem Irfan, President of the Council.
Irfan added that the overture and efforts of the delegation in building bridges between different faiths and cultures within this country and outside should be a model to further efforts in the rest of the world.
"We do appreciate the wonderful work that has been done by the Council. They need our support and we need their effort because they are the bread and butter of the campaign to undo the negative effects, they live here they can relate, they can dedicate and they are part of the American society. They hold a great responsibility that they carry it with dedication and intelligence," said Abulmagd.
The delegation also include Dr. Mohammad Bayoummi,, H.E. Kamil Al-Shareef, former minister of Islamic Endowment in Jordan and currently the Secretary General of the International Islamic Males for Da'wa and Relief, Dr. Salman Al-Hassan Al-Nadawi, President of the Muslim Youth Society in India, Dr. Jamal Badawi, President of the Media Foundation in Canada, Dr. Ja'far Shiekh Idris, President of the American Open Univeristy in Washington D.C.
The MWL delegation, which arrived on June 25th, will conclude its tour by July 15th, carrying out more meetings in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
The MWL is an international non-governmental organization, which was founded in the Holy city of Mecca in 1962. It is represented in a number of international organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Conference, where it enjoys the position of an observer member, as well as the United Nations, where it also enjoys category A observer status as a non-governmental organization with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). MWL is also a member of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural organization (UNESCO) and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as well as the International Supreme Council for Da'wah and Relief, where it enjoys the status of a founding member.
Makkah – Jamad Al Akher 03 1429/ June 07, 2008 – Wrapping up of their three-day deliberations in the holy city of Makkah yesterday evening, leading Islamic scholars and thinkers from around the world adopted a number of proposals and recommendations aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence among followers of various religions and cultures. Their proposals included creation of a centre that would promote relations among different religions and an award to encourage proponents of interfaith dialogue. The three-day conference, which brought together around 600 Islamic scholars, thinkers, intellectuals and academics from across the world, also urged Muslims to learn about non-Muslims and their cultures. The International Islamic Dialogue Conference was organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) at Al Safa Palace in the vicinity of the Haram Mosque.