Saudi Religious Dialogue in Madrid :Tolerance or Exploitation?
Contact: Mike Carver and Oscar Gilroy
Washington DC – Today the Institute for Gulf Affairs released a paper on the Saudi government’s motivations relating to its interfaith dialogue in Madrid on July 16-18.
The conference, ostensibly an interfaith dialogue, seems to have several key problems. The first being that its location is problematic due to the fact that it allows the Saudi government to sidestep the issue of massive abuses of the religious rights of minorities within its own country, which would be unavoidable if it were held in Riyadh instead.
In addition to the Saudi poor human rights record, the demographics of the conference itself are questionable. There is a significant lack of diversity of religious groups at the conference. For example, Shia Muslims receive limited representation, and religious minorities from within the Kingdom are barely represented. The Ismaili Muslims, around the world, including the Aga Khani Ismailis, have been excluded from the dialogue, both in Mecca, and Madrid. There are 700,000 Ismaili Muslims in Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, Sheikh Hassan Al-Saffar, the lone Shia Muslim leader attending the conference is banned from delivering any religious commentary just as all Shia and Ismaili Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia.
Almost all of the Muslim groups attending the conference from the United States are from two organizations that are directly funded by the Saudi government. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) receive significant amounts of financial support from the Saudi Government.
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