Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thank You King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia


This past week saw the most astonishing piece of news. It deserves significantly more coverage by the media than it has received.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has offered to hold an interfaith conference with Christians and Jews.

People are suspicious of his motivation. I am not. I welcome the news.

I concede that, in part, he may be motivated by a realization that a particular view of Islam that he does not personally share, is gaining traction in parts of Saudi Arabia. Many of his oil resources are in a traditionally Shi’a part of his Kingdom, but his royal line is Sunni.

Maybe he senses the growing ability of Al Qaida to regroup, and he fears a withering US resolve to fight it.

Maybe he is concerned that thirty years from now his oil resources will be depleted or irrelevant to the world economy, and he understands the need to modernize and integrate his country in the post-oil global economy.

But maybe he truly appreciates verse 5:48 of the Quran that does not talk of conquering other religions but in essence states that Muslims are to compete in righteousness with Christians and Jews.

“Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with God’s revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had God willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To God is your final destiny--all of you--then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.”

No matter the motive, the King’s openness to religious dialogue is the light that can redirect the Middle-East away from the abyss.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, mistakenly believed that Israel should keep religion out of the discourse between Israel and her neighbors.

But here we are. The issue always was and still is whether a Jewish State can peacefully and prosperously exist within a Middle-East that is dominated by Muslims.

I say it can, but only after religious dialogue and rapprochement.

It is time to speak frankly and honestly about religion.

It is time to spread the word within Islam that Jews are not evil, that Jews do not drink Muslim blood, and that Jews do not want to kill or displace all Arabs from the Nile to the Euphrates.

It is time to speak frankly about what is, and is not Islamic holy land, Jewish holy land and Christian holy land.

It is time to speak about what is and is not freedom, what are human rights, and what is demeaning about subrogation rules such as dhimmi.

It is time to confirm that Israel is not a Christian outpost and not the continuation of the Crusades.

It is time to present evidence and discuss whether or not the site of the Jewish Temple is where the Jews say it is, and whether or not Muhammad’s night journey occurred on this same property. There is no point fighting over land if one of the parties concludes it may be mistaken about location after all.

There is much to discuss in the interfaith dialogue. A great deal of good can come from it because there will be no peace in this land without religious harmony.

Each religion must do more than tolerate the others. Each would be well served to embrace the vision of verse 5:48 of the Quran regarding God’s choice in purposefully making separate congregations to compete in righteousness.

With this in mind, it is time for Israel to ask the entire Muslim world to live side by side with the single Jewish State. It is time for Israel to humbly ask its neighbors for a sufficient plot of land to properly compete in righteousness. To properly compete, Israel must be large enough to be independently viable and successful on its own.

It is time for a larger Israel—one that will still be less than 1% of the land on which Muslims live, but one that will live peacefully with its larger neighbors and righteously contribute to the benefit of all humankind.

King Abdullah, I sincerely thank you for offering to hold an interfaith conference. It’s high time one occurs.

--David Naggar