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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Saudi King wants monotheisms to unite to defeat atheism

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia — head of one of the most oppressive regimes in the world — has said that atheism is a “frightening phenomenon that must be vanquished”. He made the threat during a speech in which he called for dialogue between all monotheistic religions.

"I ask representatives of all the monotheistic religions to meet with their brothers in faith," Abdullah told delegates to a seminar on "Dialogue Among Civilizations between Japan and the Islamic World," according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA). “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 added.

Abdullah said the country’s top clerics have given him approval to pursue his idea and that he plans to get the opinion of Muslim leaders from other countries. According to SPA, the Saudi king also intends to address the United Nations on the subject. "We have lost sincerity, morals, fidelity and attachment to our religions and to humanity," Abdullah said on Monday, deploring "the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish."

To confirm his credentials as a man of interfaith sincerity, we should remember that the Saudi monarchy bans the open worship of other religions. Mosques are the only religious buildings permitted in the country where the fanatical Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam dominates. When the King visited the Vatican recently, the pope asked if he would consider allowing the building of a church in Saudi Arabia to accommodate some of the 800,000 Catholics in the country. The King is now reported to have turned this request down.

Abdullah’s call follows the formation by the Vatican of a committee that aims to improve relations between Islam and Catholicism. However, this is like trying to pitch the immovable object against the irresistible force. Beyond the big words about conciliation is the hard fact that both these religions are totalitarian in nature and won’t give an inch to the other. Both have an over-arching belief that they have the ultimate truth that cannot be questioned. There is no real sincerity in this supposed search for understanding.

Last week, in what is seen as a clear provocation, the Pope baptised Italy's most prominent former Muslim, Magdi Allam. And he didn’t do it discreetly, but chose a high-profile Easter Monday service that was shown on TV.

Magdi Allam has infuriated some Muslims with his books and columns in the newspaper Corriere della Sera newspaper, where he is a deputy editor. He titled one book Long Live Israel.

One of the Islamic clerics involved in the pope’s interfaith initiative, Aref Ali Nayed, says Ratzinger’s baptism “was a deliberately provocative act” performed at an unfortunate time because of Catholic-Muslim tensions. Then, a new audio message from Osama bin Laden accused the pope of playing a "large and lengthy role" in a "new Crusade" against Islam that included the publication of drawings of the Prophet Muhammad that many Muslims found insulting. Catholic-Muslim dialogue? Dialogue of the deaf, more like.
See also:
Islamist website attacks Vatican baptism
For all his interfaith mutterings, the pope loves to goad Islam
A conversion heard around the world

28 March 2008


Published Fri, 28 Mar 2008