““Yes, we should talk to different independent religious groups, but we should also talk to various personalities who are influential in their respective fields, such as media personalities, intellectuals and academics,” said Al-Turki.”
I can’t wait till they interview Britney!
Apparently the primary goal of dialogue is to make non-Muslims understand Muslim “sensitivities”. Not only is there no hint that in a dialogue it is, by definition, the duty of both parties to listen, but there are even suggestions that a program should be established to train journalists to spread Islam in the mainstream media.
I think we can now classify this “dialogue” as another instance of Newspeak, for its intended purpose is proselytization, not dialogue as Westerners know it. I suppose that a Westerner actually engaging someone who follows the guidelines outlined at this conference would make him or her very angry: they are engaging in “dialogue” to tell us what they think is wrong with our perceptions of Islam and Muslims, rather than to listen to what Westerners think is wrong with Islam and Muslims and what how Muslims could change to better Western opinion.
In my view, interfaith dialogues between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages did nothing to further relations between the two religious communities and were even counterproductive. Instead, it was the actions of secular leaders like Napoleon and Jefferson, a few sympathetic theologians like the English Puritans, personal relations, and cultural events like the play Nathan der Weise that made co-existence possible and desirable; usually religious authorities had no choice but to follow if they were to keep their flock.
Just possibly, according to the headline of the latest article by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, participants at the summit are speaking cautiously out of fear. In which case the “extremists” have already won, is that not so? I don’t usually appreciate Al-Rashed’s opinions, but at least he realizes that “regardless of how hard non-Muslims try to insult Islam, it is Muslim extremists who are threatening Islam today and not the followers of other religions.“
Welcome to readers from Dr. Sanity's weekly Carnival of the Insanities!
Afterword: For a real primer on inter-religious dialogue, do check out my previous post plugging Brad Hirschfeld's book, You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right!
Addendum, 6/10/08: Riazat Butt over at The Guardian agrees:
Christians are forever worrying that Muslims are hellbent on taking over the world and here we have the grand mufti saying pretty much that. Way to go.
Addendum, 6/10/08: Mohsen Rezai, a man wanted by Argentina and Interpol because he’s a prime suspect in the suicide bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires, also attended the conference according to Iran's Press TV.
The fact that he was there and that there was no public controversy between Muslims about this implies that the other attendees strongly endorse his goals and see nothing wrong with his methods - nothing worth mentioning out loud, anyway. Apparently the Saudis simply ignored Interpol's warrant for Rezai's arrest, along with Argentina's request for his detention and extradition.
Thus, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was too kind when they said they are "saddened that, by the presence of these antisemitic terrorists, the Saudi much-vaunted Muslim interfaith conference has been betrayed." Not only did the Iranian mullahs succeed in tarring the other Muslim attendees with the Islamic terror brush, they have thus successfully re-established terror as a socially and politically acceptable tool among Islam's self-declared leaders.
Update, 6/11/08 See my next post.
Update, 6/12/08: As conferees take their leave of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr Abdullah Al-Turki,
noted that the Ulema, thinkers and leaders of the Muslim minorities throughout the world were happy over the success of the conference in laying a scientific way for an objective Islamic dialogue [emphasis added] with followers of the other religions, cultures and civilization, and they are hopeful that the outcome of the dialogue will be positive...
Not "dialogue" but "Islamic dialogue". There you have it, right from the horse's mouth.