Muslim scholars meet in Saudi for inter-faith dialogue

June 4th, 2008 - 7:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Mecca, June 4 (DPA) Muslim religious scholars, intellectuals and media figures from around the world were to meet Wednesday in the Islamic holy city in Saudi Arabia to lay out the basis for dialogue with other faiths. The three-day inter-faith conference will be opened by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who had announced in March for the first time plans for dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The meeting sponsored by the Muslim World League will spell out principles and objectives of dialogue with Christianity and Judaism in the context of the Koran and the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

“Whether the other side is ready or not, we should take this step and make the other side run out of excuses,” said Indian author and journalist M J Akbar.

The Mecca meeting attended by 500 participants will also discuss the future of inter-faith dialogue against the background of what Muslims perceive as a widespread Islamophobia in the west.

Workshops will discuss organising world campaigns to defend the Prophet Mohammed, whose negative depiction in cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, caused an uproar in the Islamic world.

“Whether we like or not, this is a global village and we have to play a constructive part in this world,” Syrian delegate Sheikh Abdel-Qadir was quoted as saying by Saudi daily Arab News.

Saudi Arabia, which mobilised Muslims around the world over the Danish cartoons, adheres to a hardline Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam.

Non-Muslims living in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to build public houses of worship.

But the Saudi king, seen as a reformer, has taken steps to loosen strict religious and social customs. His landmark visit to the Vatican in 2007 and call for inter-faith dialogue are seen as part of this reform drive.

The Vatican itself runs its own inter-faith dialogue with Muslim clerics.

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