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Is the Saudi-backed centre for interreligious dialogue a fig leaf for the west or a genuine step towards tolerance?

The centre, based in Vienna, might actually be illegal in Saudi Arabia itself

By on Friday, 30 November 2012

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the launch of the centre (Photo courtesy of KAICIID)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the launch of the centre (Photo courtesy of KAICIID)

One of the strangest things to happen just recently in Vienna is the inauguration of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. The centre has a Wikipedia page here, which reads rather strangely, as this taster shows:

“This new international organization, KAICIID, is headquartered in Vienna, Austria; and has major objectives of facilitating intercultural and interreligious dialogue as a humanely strategic forum for cooperation, communication, partnership and information exchange – thereby building understanding and mutual benefit among peoples of the world.

“Crucially, KAICIID has further goals of promoting human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation plus acting against the abuse of religion as a means to justify oppression, violence and conflict; promoting abiding societal cherishment for the preservation and sacredness of holy sites, as well as respect for religious symbols; including focusing on compassionate issues pertaining to: the dignity of human life, preservation of the environment, ethical matters, poverty alleviation and religious education.”

The centre is financed by the Saudi Kingdom, along with the governments of Austria and Spain. Just why the latter are involved remains mysterious. And why is it located in Vienna, of all places? The best place for a Saudi-backed centre which promotes tolerance is clearly Saudi Arabia itself. The only problem with that is that Saudi Arabia is a country where religious intolerance is legally and constitutionally enshrined: so the centre’s objectives, which include promoting religious freedom – specifically “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” – might actually make its activities illegal back home.

The Huffington Post has the idea that the centre, though positioned abroad, is designed to win over the more intolerant sections of Saudi opinion. This may be true. Or is the centre a fig leaf designed to make us think the Saudis are inclined to tolerance, despite all evidence to the contrary?

The Vatican is supporting the initiative, though reading this report, from the Catholic News Service, one has the impression that the Holy See is being cautious. It must be remembered that the Holy See and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have no diplomatic relations, as the Holy See does not have diplomatic relations with countries that do not practise religious toleration. Nevertheless, there are contacts, and the King of Saudi Arabia has visited the Vatican, and been received by the Holy Father, despite the fact that it is illegal to celebrate Mass in his Kingdom.

That Saudi Arabia should embrace religious toleration is something that we should all want, and if this centre is part of bringing that about, we should all welcome it. But it is a pretty strange way of going about it. One might say, of course, that the Saudi Kingdom is a country like no other, and that too would be correct.

As for the choice of Vienna, can that have anything to do with the famous repulse of the Turks before its walls in 1683?

  • ConfusedofChi

     Wonder how many supporting such a project also support taqiyya!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Given King Abdullah’s bigotry against atheists, I doubt this organization of his is really interested in religious freedom.

  • maxmarley

    Large fig leaf.
    But the socialist zealots and the gullible in the apathetic west will buy it.
    The prudent with 1400 years hindsight of this religion/ideology know the Moslem agenda.
    Austria and Spain of all countries should know better.
    The west are sleepwalking towards a demographically dangerous future.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    THIS DIALOGUE CENTRE : Some thing is better than nothing. Let us wish the KING well and PRAY for him and for all whom he represents especially THE MUSLIMS.

    JESUS taught us…..If we are SINCERE and TRUE to HIM HE will WIN here.

    Evil from any quarter spreading and taking over the world, Christians are responsible.
    JESUS THE LORD brought SALVATION  for all and Christians and their leaders what did they do  with it for so many certuries?

    JESUS’ 12 APOSTLES AND THE ONE UNTIMELY BORN  together took on so much of the world and so many of the followers SUPPLY only negative returns! all because the foundation of these  in practice looks to be on ANOTHER CHRIST.

  • Parasum

     “That Saudi Arabia should embrace religious toleration is something that
    we should all want, and if this centre is part of bringing that about,
    we should all welcome it”.

    ## What a revolting idea. Please, Father, drop the secularism. Please.

    The present Saudi position is impregnable. If they really believe that Mohammed is the Prophet and Apostle of God, & the recipient of a revelation intended for all mankind, one intended to be the final & perfect revelation of the Will of God, then several important consequences follow:

    1. People (like Christians) who commit sins rebuked in the Koran, are in fact, even if not in intention, enemies of the true religion, & therefore, of Muslims. One cannot be a good Muslim, a submitter to God, and give comfort to those whose religion is predicated upon giving God partners.  He has none, as the Koran makes clear. 

    2. Whether Christians like that or not, is sublimely irrelevant. What matters is not what they want, but what God wants. If God is oppposed to their religion – and the Koran shows that He is – then too bad. The way out of that, is not for their ideas to be tolerated – an idea which amounts to defending the contamination of God’s Truth with the lies of men – but for them to cast aside their errors and become faithful Muslims. To deny what God has made known is evil, and it is therefore evil to allow the true religion and a false one to flourish side by side. To worship God  by allowing what he forbids, is not to worship him at all. God cannot be served with a heart that permits what He rejects as well as what He desires. This is true of men’s hearts, and of societies. He must have everything – or nothing. So a Muslim society has no place for a religion that denies God what iks due to Him: which is – everything.  To halt between true religion and false, is bad enough  – but to institutionalise this is far worse:it amounts to choosing falsehood & rejecting the truth one has been given.

    This is not compatible with democracy – but democracy is a godless & anti-Muslim ideology, which is mad enough to ignore the rights over God over men, in order to adjust society according to what the popular vote – which often includes non-Muslim voters – desires at any given time. This is to base a society upon the unstable & changeable whims of men who very often prefer to choose what is against their own interests. To be a good Muslim and to support democracy, is impossible – it is an exerckse in futility, because to be a democrat is to deny God His due. It is an attempt to  fob Him off with a little of what is owed to Him, while depriving Him of almost all that is to Him. No society that behaves in this way can expect His favour. To disobey God is not a good way of serving Him.

    3. To allow land possessed by the Faithful to be polluted by US Christian troops (who are unclean, like dogs) is bad enough; to legitimise the false religion of Christians so that they are free to spread it, is far worse. It amounts to surrendering to infodels what God has given to the Faithful; it is an act of rebellion against the known Will of God. If the Koran is true, the religion of Christians must be untrue – & the Koran shows that the religion of Muslims is true.

    4. The rulers of Saudi Arabia have no right to disobey what God has revealed. If they molest Muslims by undermining the religion of Muslims of which they are supposed to be the protectors, they destroy their own legitimacy. There is no separation between religious & civil authority  in Islam – the distinction is a man-made falsehood which drives a wedge between two different forms of  authority exercised by God. All authority is religious – all authority is political. And both are in every respect subject to God. So those whom He appoints to exercise had better not have any ideas about democracy or about presuming to change what He has established.

    My sympathies are entirely with Muslim opponents of this move. Religious toleration is the AIDS of the Church. If God wants a religion, is to be as He wants it, not as mere nobodies like  Popes (who can always be replaced if they play Him false) might want. Toleration of error is of the devil – to tolerate error is to spit in the Face of Christ. No defence of it is possible without adopting  unbelieving & anti-Christian ideas. It is wrong in principle – it is the principle that is perverse, rebellious & corrupt. So there can in the nature of the case  not be a good exercise of toleration; not unless one can spreak of a good act of murder or a good act of satanolatry. These are intrinsic evil & vicious, and so is the sin of religious toleration. The altar of Christ & the worship of Belial cannot have any fellowship – to allow one, is to hate the other. They are mutually exclusive. The sheer secularism & godlessness of the article is horrible. Human rights be damned – there can be no such thing, if they are  not founded on the Rights of God. If Catholic big-wigs want to build relations with Muslims on another foundation than Christ the Lord, they cannot expect any sympathy when their house of cards collapses in ruin. As it infallibly will. 

    Since it is not possible to compel the gift of faith, and since executing heretics & believers in false religions is out of the question, those who do not believe have to be dealt with in a genuinely Christioan manner. It does not follow that they must be allowed the exercise of their religion – to allow the religion when it is the cause of the problem, would be senseless.

    What is also detestable is the notion that Muslims should in effect forswear their religion for something as fleeting as Western or Catholic approval. They cannot be asked to betray & poison what is most important to them, merely to please others. Nor can we. It is wrong of the Pope to try to promote the good of the Church in *this* way – there are no words for the wrongness of what he has done. Not because Islam is true, but because only the purest means should be adopted to strengthen the Faith. If a single person is wronged by means to such an end, those means are wrong. Christians should be so luminously innocent of doing wrong to any, that no-one can possibly accuse  them of doing what is good in a wrong way. 

    BTW  – intolerance is often a great virtue. People are not very tolerant of paedophilia, but I’ve yet to read a denunciation of the intolerant bigots who hate even the idea of it. To be intolerant of what is not to be tolerated, is healthy, appropriate, and good.  Intolerance is, by itself, an abstraction – what gives it meaning and value is, what it is intolerance of. It is not a self-sufficient quality, but is always a relation to something else: whether penicillin, or milk products, or Christianity, or pollen, or a pressure per square inch, or Islam, or abortion, or Catholicism, or “The Tablet”, or politicians,or whatever it may be. There is no such reality as intolerance-in-itself; it is always in relation to something.

    “Large fig leaf.
    But the socialist zealots and the gullible in the apathetic west will buy it.”

    ## Including many churchmen – who should know better :(

  • Parasum

    It’s not bigotry – to call it that is possible only if one ignores the character of Islam as a religion that is also a political stance. Islam does not distinguish conceptually between the two, any more than the OT kingdoms of Israel & Judah did. Judaism came to do so,only as result of the destruction of the Davidic monarchy & Levitical priesthood when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem in 587/6 BC – after the Exile, the Jewish people was no longer identical with the  Jewish nation, but was scattered abroad in different countries. Islam combines belief in the unity of Muslim believers in many different nations, as a “catholic church”, with identity of the People with the nation when the nation is Muslim. The ideal Muslim position would be for all men on earth to: realise that that they are in reality Muslims; to acknowledge Allah as the One Unique God, Mohammed as the last & greatest of the Prophets, the authority and perfection & eternity of the Koran as the final revelation of Allah; &, for all political units in the world to submit to Islam. Islam is both a universal empire and a universal Church, simultaneously, indivisibly, & in all respects. It is not interested in co-existence, but in universal and total & absolute submission to the Will of God. It is remorselessly God-centred – this is both very attractive, and strongly repulsive, because though the theory is a noble one, the practice of this wonderful theory is where the problems arise. It is not softened, as Christianity is, by having a Divine Redeemer Who is also a man with other men. And if Christianity can produce persecutions by virtue of its internal logic, so has Islam.  It seems that religion needs to be humanised if it is not to be bad for human beings.    

    King Abdullah is doing nothing that godly OT kings were not praised in the OT for doing. He would be doing evilly not to be “bigoted” against atheists, because atheism is a very serious form of wrong-doing. What people want has to be in accord what God wants & has revealed – not the other way round (which is idolatry). Atheism is founded on the denial of God, so a godly ruler should do everything in his power to do away with it; otherwise it will be spread like an evil weed, and corrupt the entire kingdom. A good ruler obeys & carries out what God has made known & wants to be carried out – only a wicked ruler tolerates what is forbidden by God. And to do that is atheism in practice, even if not in name.

  • Mike

    Interesting comment. But what would Jesus do? Would he say: I don’t want anything to do with these people because they don’t believe in me or would he try to engage them? I suspect the latter.