Saudi Arabia/Austria: King Abdullah funds Vienna Center

In July 2008 many scoffed when King Abdullah, partnered with King Juan Carlos of Spain, hosted the National Dialogue in Madrid towards opening up discussion and minds of differing religions and practices.  The naysayers said it was just another opportunity for King Abdullah to appear as if he were making progressive reforms in allowing Saudis to discuss religions other than Islam.  Naysayers further declared with confidence, “Nothing will come of this Madrid initiative.  After a few weeks it will be all but forgotten.”

When will naysayers begin to learn and believe that King Abdullah is a man of his word and of his honor?  When will naysayers recognize that King Abdullah is 86 years old yet has a progressive mind?  In fact, a recent article in Arab News highlights more ways which King Abdullah will be remembered for his word, generosity and open mind.

In a few weeks, the King Abdullah Interfaith Dialogue Center will open in Vienna, Austria as a recommendation made during the National Dialogue held in Madrid back in 2008.  The Center’s aim is to continue to foster greater understanding and awareness between differing faiths and cultures which were initially highlighted in Madrid.

The Center will host seminars, conferences, dialogues and other events bringing together individuals of different backgrounds and faiths.  King Abdullah is a visionary who understands that without taking the first steps towards reaching out to one another in spite of perceived or real differences, there can be no progress towards global peace and stability.

What specific topics would you like to see discussed at the Center or organized by the Center?  Do you think Vienna is a good neutral location of an Interfaith Center?  And last but certainly not least, what is YOUR definition of an International Interfaith Dialogue Center?

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50 Responses

  1. ” The naysayers said it was just another opportunity for King Abdullah to appear as if he were making progressive reforms in allowing Saudis to discuss religions other than Islam.”

    Nothing happened really. It is another opportunity for the King to squander more Saudi money to advance his own image. In the last 2 years none of the following happened:

    – Saudi the country he rules did not change its policies on allowing people from other religions to bring their holy books in the country.
    – Saudi did not allow one place of worship of other religions to be built in its territories
    – Saudi did not reverse any of the religious rulings aimed at prosecuting none believers
    – Saudi Arabia still hands death sentences for religious based imaginary crimes such as sorcery
    – Saudi still has religious police roaming the streets and harassing people
    – The King did not reverse his early statement when he created this farce and I quote from the official Saudi government release “I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible. We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty and sincerity for our religions and humanity.”
    If he is interested in dialog between people of different believe systems, he would not issue such aggressive statement against 15% of the world’s population.

    Spending money with the wrong intentions is hardly an achievement.

  2. Let’s clear things up a bit. The “National Dialogue” operates in Saudi Arabia only.

    The Madrid Conference was part of the international Interfaith Dialogue Initiative. The Initiative follows guidelines developed by the 2008 Islamic Preparatory Conference on Religious Dialogue. The Prep Conference was reported on by the Saudi Press Agency and from their reports I extracted fifteen major points. link.

    The key points are that the most important purpose of the dialogue is to introduce Islam, that dialogue does not consist of Muslims listening to non-Muslims, and that the arguments of non-Muslims defending their own religion or pointing out perceived faults in Islam are to be suppressed.

    “Global peace” isn’t a goal, though “peaceful coexistence” is – the idea that oppressed peoples could be liberated is rejected. Since a Muslim’s violent response to criticism is accepted, this means that the price of peace is for non-Muslims to hold their tongues and for Westerners to sacrifice their freedoms.

    Therefore the Vienna Center is intended to be an instrument of Islamic proselytization and a spearhead of oppression.. That’s why it is in Europe; locating it in Saudi Arabia would serve little purpose, since everyone there is Muslim already.

  3. Absolutely agree with the facts as stated by both MoQ and Solomon2.

    If the whole Interfaith Dialogue Initiative was anything more than Islamic propaganda and expansionism, interfaith dialogues would be allowed to happen -even encouraged – on the streets of Saudi – and perhaps more importantly, in the hearts of Saudi Arabs. Those things are still not being allowed, will still get you sent to prison, deported or executed.

    Beginning in the 70s Saudi started funding mosques and Islamic schools in the US – and the result today is that an estimated 80% of mosques in America adhere to hardline “Saudi” Islam. These so-called dialogues – and the Center- are just extensions of that same propaganda machine in the guise of “generosity”, “good will” and “interfaith dialogue”.

    I, for one, am not buying it, and won’t until there is freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia.

  4. SGIME took the words right out of my mouth. ARE Muslims actually truly interested in understanding the faith of others? On the whole I would say no they are not. They think that Islam is the only true faith and therefore why the need to listen to false faiths? They might hold events that will get people together of varying faiths but when doing so can one pray their nonmuslim prayers side by side with a Muslim. Besides that it is only including the three Abraham faiths. IMO to be truly inclusive we need to recognize other faiths besides those three or peoples right to have no faith if they choose. It doesn’t make the athiest immoral in behavior if they don’t believe in god. I think it is a legal way for Muslims to push their agenda for further recruits, because in my opinion a two way conversation is not waht will happen.

    Besides why is it ALWAYS Islam flowing in the western direction and not other faiths flowing back toward the east. If there was a true interest in interfaith dialogue we would see it where it is in desperate need which is Muslim majority countries which we don’t. It is very deftly kept out of any Muslim country. Why? because like I said there really is not an interest from Muslims to learn about other faiths around them or in the world. When we see these on the streets of Egypt syria and other countries where there is desperate need for some knowledge about other faiths, I’ll start to see it as interfaith dialogue. Why bring it to people who already allow Muslims in their country and have rights to protect them? I think it is a thinly velied attempt at spreading Islam even further. Kind of like being at a trade show where there are trades of all different type. You really are interested in your business and gaining clients for your business but you will go through the motions of pretending to be interested in what others have to say about their businesses because your main goal is to get them in front of yours and pitch your ideas to them. You don’t really care about their business but you “go along” in order to get your chance to do your own pitch to them.

    When I see folks in KSA accepting this type of center there or in another Muslims country I will know that Muslims are serious about interfaith dialogue…not just looking for a chance to prostylitize.

  5. I think that any multi-cultural center should help people understand the different faiths, including Islam. But, instead of harping on the differences, the centers should stress where the religions are the same in the Koran, Torah and the Bible. This should include all scientific information found in them.

    I think that the centers should also include the basics for how humans should behave towards one another no matter what religion they believe in. There are similar rules in all religions that basically go back to the Ten Commandments.

    By the way, not all people in Saudi Arabia are Muslim. Many of the expat workers, for example, are from an array of different faiths including Christianity.

  6. What’s the crap about this progressive mind huh?

    It’s alway amuse me reading the never ending Wahhabis apologetics tries hard to make ‘em look nice abroad nor in their own backyard.

    I see a lot of silly rules and regulations put in place just because of their funny and silliest interpretation of from this Wahhabi brand and their notorious dogma! You wouldn’t be progress, and I repeat you COULD NOt and will not become a progressive mind when you not even allow the women to drive and many other mundane things just because they say so or their laughable arguments to justify their very actions.

  7. Agree with Solomon2 and Moq and SIGME and Oby.
    Let’s see some interface dialogue in Muslim countries first before we can take any ‘ Islamic Interfaith dialogue center” in Europe serious.
    After reading Solomon’s points, And checking them using the links I agree with him that it has nothing to do with ”dialogue” and everything with proselytizing Islam.

    If a politician in a muslim country can be slaughtered on the spot by his own bodyguard for merely opposing a law which calls for a death sentence every person who happens to have a different faith and the imams actually praise the body guard-murderer, then I think even the mention of an ”inter faith dialogue” by Muslim leaders is a cynical joke. Especially by the ”Guardian of the two mosques”.
    It’s a farce.

    It’s easy to use the Saudi peoples money to build an expensive proselytization center in Europe, it means nothing. Let king Abdullah start ”interfaith dialogue” in Saudi itself, let’s see if all those of a different faith, or atheist, are actually allowed to openly express their faiths/non faiths in KSA first, build their own religious centers in KSA first, before he goes out into the world lecturing open, tolerant societies about ”inter faith dialogue”.

    Let’s see the Muslim majority deal with and be able to discuss criticism of Islam first. Let’s wait until we don’t get riots, mayhem and murder just because somebody in a non-muslim country makes a cartoon criticizing Islamic based terrorism, before we even start thinking of an ”inter faith dialogue”.

    And btw, we have had these interfaith dialogues all over the place. For centuries. In the free world.
    Nothing original here.
    Except in the actual interpretation of the term, that’s definitely new.

    And I totally agree with Moq about atheists. It’s a bit thick to condemn 15% (and rising) of the world’s population just because they can’t help not being convinced of your particular magic fairy tale.

  8. Selling King Abdullah a mastermind of interfaith initiatives is like putting a Baptist minister in charge of gay and lesbian outreach. Seriously?? Saudi Arabia is not one of, but THE MOST religiously intolerant place on the face of the earth. All Saudi citizens are presumed Muslims, non-Muslims can’t practice their faith openly or even enter two major cities, there are no churches or temples and can’t have one, Muslims are legally advantaged over non-Muslims, the laws are religiously based, legally changing religions is impossible, public education system teaches that other religions are deviant, jeez, my fingers are already cramping.

    And you want the king of this country to be known for, wait a minute, spearheading a global initiative of religious tolerance? Sure. And Taliban can be known as global patrons of symphony and ballet.

  9. Rose colored glasses, there is no scientific knowledge in the books of the abrahamic religions. The only ”scientific knowledge” they contain is of course more than a thousand years old, is obsolete and wrong in all details.
    So that is not a very good idea.

  10. NN, Woehahahahahahahaaaaaaa :mrgreen:

  11. Those who are of different faith are allowed to bring their holy book with them in to the Kingdom. They may not bring a suitcase full but they can bring one for their own personal use.

    I believe the Doha Debates have had discussions on religions and faith and that is from another predominate Muslim country.

  12. I have no idea if the king is honest or not, but I don’t see any evidence that the Saudis have embraced tolerance within their own country at all. The printed religious materials that the Saudis distribute are extremely conservative (if I can judge by what others say they contain). Those that I have actually read, in particular the Koran they distribute for free, misrepresent both Christianity and Judaism. Any Muslim who reads that Koran gets the distinct idea the Jewish and Christians know their religion is false.

    One wonders how completely tone deaf the king really is. Setting an interfaith meeting in Spain has given the real enemies of Islam a perfect subject for their anger. It certainly would confirm to the conspiracy minded that Islam has a real plan to take over Europe.

  13. “Those who are of different faith are allowed to bring their holy book with them in to the Kingdom.”

    Carol, check the facts on this one. It only happens with Christian Westerners in limited situations. By the way that is also done to silence criticism from westerners, not for the sake of tolerance. A Hindu cannot even bring the smallest religious symbol never mind a book.

    Saudi Arabia is the worst country in the world for religious tolerance pure and simple. No amount of spending by the King will change that fact. Only actions will. He can start by cleaning his own house, before proclaiming himself as a world leader on tolerance.

  14. Then why do people recommend you disguise your bible in a book cover? Why are christmas trees confiscated? Why are you not to bring icons? Why can’t a hindu bring any books or statues belonging to their religion? Why are there no churches for all those christian expats? No temples for all the hindu expats?
    Because Saudi Arabia is so tolerant towards interfaith dialogue?
    I think that tolerance is to be exerted by non-Muslims, towards Islam, but not the other way around of course.
    And I think it’s a bout high time everybody stops being tolerant and starts being really critical.

    I got this from a news link about saudi arabia just now, it’s about media and internet freedoms,
    *But for the first time, the Saudi government has published new regulations for the electronic media, which includes bloggers. All users are encouraged to register with the government and the new rules, in effect since Jan. 1, prohibit criticism of Islam or anything that compromises public order.*

    Of course they have been trying this for years, but note the new rules prohibit criticism of Islam
    Sorry, but if a government/religion which prohibits any criticism , and even has laws with draconian punishments for criticizing that religion, (including death sentences) as well as trying to get UN resolutions through which are an affront to human rights, freedom of speech and most developed countries constitutions, then those countries/religions/leaders cannot even claim to understand the concept of an ”Inter faith dialogue”
    Which is clearly demonstrated by their own writings. It is just another shot at trying to spread that intolerant, not to be criticized religion, undermine freedom of speech worldwide, and stop those pesky critics.
    And as we can see from those countries where the tolerant religion of peace rules, that is done by brute force

  15. OK i’m going to be the devil;’s advocate here :-) don’t yell or beat me up. I don’t live there or plan to ever. .. been there done that, however my experiences wheni lived there was not toally unpleasent, of course i had the advantage of money, wasta ann unbrainwashed husband..
    anyway coming to the point…

    Saudi does not proclaim itself as a secular country, they openly say it is an ISLAMIC country, only muslims welcome, shariat enforced ( whatever the brand), women are not on par w/men ( acco to their brand of islam) , so if you hate all this don’t come here!!! however since they need the brainpower and manpower of people outside saudi they say , ‘we’ll waive tax, throw money at you and maybe even let you live in your little oasis” and the expats go there .
    I don’t see why the king cannot be tolerant man and out of the goodness of his heart decide to have interfaith center somewhere else, since saudi is islamic !!! I’m not saying he’s right, but saudi is probably the only place where they clearly say they dont tolerate other religions. atleats till they have oil. :-)

    so maybe they don’t want to be tolerant, it’s their country their choice :-)

  16. Radha: so maybe they don’t want to be tolerant, it’s their country their choice

    That maybe true. Then this Abdullah guy shouldn’t be going around trying to be the pseudo leader for the interfaith dialogue. He is being two-faced. Pure and simple.

    I remember couple of years ago, his under-lings and lovers were trying to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize …. give me a break, for Christ’s sake.

    Well said, Aafke-Art!!!!!

  17. Radha, Sure it’s their choice.
    Or rather the choice of the family in power and their religious buddies.
    But fine, the men in power have chosen thus. No other religions tolerated. No criticism of the official religion tolerated. Nothing tolerated.
    All fine.
    Their choice.

    But you can’t make that choice and then also claim you are a world leader in tolerance.
    You just can’t.
    It’s either you are tolerant, or you are not tolerant, and if you choose to be not tolerant, then you sure as heck can’t tell other people they should be more tolerant of you and your intolerant religion.

    Yes you can choose what you want to be, but no, you can’t be both.

  18. Also think about this…The king is going to live how much longer??? a few years? The guy behind him is a hardliner who makes the King look like a boy scout. BUT we now have the interfaith center in place in Vienna no less (sorry but I am reminded of the push back of Islam in the 1700’s in Vienna when it was stopped there.) Once the King passes what is this guy who will now be the “defender of the two holy Mosques” going to foist upon the Vienesse in the way of “Interfaith Dialogue”? I am sorry I don’t like to be so suspicious but actions speak louder than words and it seems it is ONLY to introduce Islam on a wider scale to Europeans. How many Austrian Muslims are going to be able to participate? How many ARE there? Probably not enough to make a dent. If there are not many Muslims to attend these interfaith dialogues at the center the in reality it is not really INTERfaith and is really a “teach non Muslims about Islam” learning center isn’t it?

  19. Carol – I personally have had at least five bibles confiscated by customs coming into Saudi over the years, not to mention countless Christmas items, and other Christian books and symbols, so please don’t tell me or the readers of this blog that Christians are free to bring the bible or anything else Christian into Saudi Arabia.

    I personally know of several people who had their bibles confiscated and thrown in the trash , not by Mo-on-the-street but by paid government employees who, one can assume, have been trained and taught what to look for and what to do when non-Muslims enter the Kingdom carrying religious items.

    Do non-Muslim religious items make it in? Sure, but so does everything else that is officially banned in Kingdom including drugs, alcohol and pornography.

    I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t think the bible belongs in that kind of company. Obviously the Kingdom of Interfaith Dialogue does.

  20. “It is permissible in their culture for them to lie”

    I read that statment many times and I really don’t know how to address it, where in the world did she arrive at the conclusion that it permissible in our culture to lie, it is such a big acusation to attach a lable to a whole nation, better to a whole culture.

    Mam, I don’t know if your husband keeps lying to you, but trust me its not It is permissible in our culture to lie.

  21. I was warned by F to not bring any religious stuff into saudi, however what surprised me was the customs guy threw out set of amar chitra katha’s out ( comic books) , ofcourse they do tellt he ramayana and mahabharatha story but we had a bunch of animal tales etc., and the lot lot was tossed… which was received by my then young kids with howls of protest :-) yells actually.. it’s sad in a way because they attach an unfavorable opinions of a country before entry itself…

    As for religious stuff, F fashioned a perfect Ganesh from kids modelling clay :-) My son keeps it in his dorm now… those who move there need to be creative and go with the flow.. you’ll have great memories..

  22. SGIME

    “i personally know of several people who had their bibles confiscated and thrown in the trash …”

    Hmmm. That’s awful. And then muslims go on a burn and slash spree when someone threatens to burn korans and draw cartoons of the prophet. And all this in the land of Abdullah who is all about interfaith dialogue????

    And one doesn’t need any more simple proof than that to show that all this interfaith dialgue stuff is self-serving sham to spread wahabi islam far and wide!!!

  23. I’m sorry to hear of those who had multiple bible or christmas items confisticated. I can’t say much about multiple items for I know that can raise the antenna of inspectors. One or two are allowed.

  24. I have to disagree with most of you and say I think King Abdullah is honestly trying to initiate an interfaith dialogue here.
    He might be tolerant, but 90% of his countrymen and women are NOT. So having any kind of interfaith discussions or trying to ease the situation for the expats of other religions in Saudi becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible.
    There is no way he could just go and say ok from now on its fine to build churches and temples everywhere. Like Radha said, it is an Islamic state, and it is full of close-minded, ignorant people. The whole country would go into chaos if he would change everything at once. That is just the reality that he has to deal with.
    That’s why I think, he is a progressive person in the small things he does. Even the tinyest things he tries to change are met with ridiculous outbursts and resistance especially from the religious leaders.
    Also he cannot just go and dismiss all of them and loose respect of his people. How will there be change ever? To me it seems like he has a tough job balancing out all these different issues.

    And who are we to say if King Abdullah is sincere or not?I think none of us can judge him on that.

  25. I had my Bible and nothing hsppened to it, it was in my laggage… My gold cross was on me, and rosary in my bag… Did not rise any questions. They did not check anything, only screened. We also brought 7ft christmas tree with all the ornaments and lights from Bahrain i the car, none of the officers even cared to check…
    I guess it is luck maybe, but I have not seen any heavy searches, and we fly and travel in and out of country at least once a month…

  26. Laylah,
    I think you are largely correct-on this issue. It is really revolutionary for many of these people to even hear of interfaith dialogue. That’s why so many seem to think he invented it. But it is opening their minds. That said, it’s extremely frustrating to me that the minds have been so securely shut for so long.

  27. @Laylah and Sandy,

    Sorry the idea that King Abdullah is just presiding over ignorant people just does not cut it. That assumes that this man has just come to the scene in Saudi Arabia and was not involved in its development into what it is today.

    – He is a member of the senior leadership of the country and led the National Guard for almost 50 years . This is a group mostly made up of tribal military members loyal to the family and presumably a big portion of these ignorant people you claim. What has he done in 50 years to lead them to be better?
    – He effectively ran the country for over 15 years now. What has he done to change the radical thinking that prevails in the country? Has he impacted education to improve the situation? Has he challenged the religious establishment? Who other than the person with the support a loyal National Guard (stronger than the Army internally) and holds such powerful position can enact such change?

    The idea that this powerful King is so helpless internally, but some how he can be a leader for the rest of the world is ridiculous. Again, before he can get any credibility he should focus on making impactful changes internally.

    Ask yourself what has stopped him all this time from taking leadership on this issue internally?

  28. @Lada,

    Oh please, do you really think that many people here take any of your wild stories as credible?

  29. @Moq,
    I do think he is not as strong and all -powerful internally as is often believed. The President of the United States is also Commander in Chief but does not influence the military in the way you seem to suggest King Abdullah could influence the national guard. I don’t think he has been as involved in the development for the last 15 years as you seem to think.

    I don’t think he can be a leader for the world. In fact, he is following in a load of other peoples footsteps when he talks interfaith. But it IS eye opening for people here when they hear him do this. MANY have never heard such a thing. And it’s good that they do.

    My biggest beef against him is he has not done as much with education as he should because that is the key to everything changing. And I do think there have been opportunities to lead more strongly and not worry so much about how things would go over. I mean King Faisal did call out the national guard to make sure women could go to school.

    But I do think he is older and more frail than he appears and that his advisors tell him a lot more of what he wants to hear rather than what he should hear.

    I have another biggest beef. Jeddah needs a drainage system. I am beyond mad at this point and can’t forgive any of them. And their death toll of “11” is BS and says to me they stiill won’t play straight and are even a bit stupid as if we aren’t all sharing info on FB, Twitter and Youtube.

  30. @Sandy,

    Hmmmmmm, You are forgetting that you are claiming he can be a leader. With all the positions he held and all the time he had (50 years as senior leader and 15 as the top leader), he could not enact any measurable change. This is the type of excuse given to leaders that left the Arabic world in the mess it is in today.

    You want to see what type of leadership he has. Just think of what will happen if say, 5000 Saudi’s start marching in the streets demanding answers for the Jeddah floods problems. You will have 100,000 of his National Guards descend on the city to control it and close people in their homes for weeks. They do have leadership skills when it comes to keeping power, not when it comes to improving their country.

    When someone proclaims the position of a leader of the country, the ”I do not have control’ excuse just does not cut it.

  31. why would Lada lie? she is Christian obviously…why would she protect people that would take her religious articles? Maybe she was lucky…even watch dogs sometimes can have an off day, no?

  32. @Moq,
    You do have a point. You didn’t hear? Not suprised no press coverage. There was a protest on Tahlia St in Jeddah Fri after the flood. Not huge but the crackdown was. All the police MIA during the flood showed up and they herded up everyone. There was also a protest scheduled for the Sat. But those that showed up arrived to find police everywhere at the location and no one was allowed to park.

    All I know is these people with there diverse and their often inflexible, uneducated views or progressive educated ones, are hard to lead in unity. All I can say is that everyday life is more relaxed with King Abdullah and there is finally some much needed change in the educational system. Though not near enough. And there is a lot more discussion of once taboo subjects in the press here.

    However, how much should he, could he, do? What are his intentions? Honestly- I just don’t know. I think it should be more- but how much more I don’t know.

    I also can’t forget than when municipality elections were held in Jeddah they elected all the conservative “Islamic” candidates- and those that were appointed by the government were more moderate. It just isn’t as straightforward and clear as it would seem.

  33. I don’t know exactly what Moq was refering to with Lada. But I do know an awful lot of people who have Christmas trees here. I don’t know how they did it in the past- but I doubt it’s as hard now as it used to be. I mean they used to take magaziines at the airport and black out woman’s body parts. Now they don’t bother at all. The only thing I’ve been stopped with recently, was a bag of organic vegetable stock powder. I think on the x-ray it looked like i was smuggling drugs. As soon as they saw it in the bag- they didn’t even bother looking further.

  34. My point is Saudi government will crack down with huge military force if it was bigger and they will use no other than the forces of the National Guards, which were “groomed” under the current King’s leadership. Note these forces are only effective against unarmed civilians, when they were faced with a real enemy in the Iraq conflict, they ran.

    Again, the King is not effective at changing the realities of Saudi, just defending the throne.

    Regarding, the open media and discussing topics. Do you really think for one minute Saudi had a choice in that change with all the satellite channels beaming programs from other countries and internet sites covering all the topics online. It is a policy of containment, not support of freedoms.

    Regarding the Mujlis Al-Shura, I think you should look up the name of the head of the Majlis, who was appointed by the King before you claim his intent is to chose moderates. Note also the Saudi government did not allow any cultural or political institutions to develop in the country except for Business and Religious Groups. When the elections were held no real candidates could be recognized outside of these groups.

    The summary of all this is Saudi still remain one of the most obsessive countries in the world. Especially when it comes to religious freedoms. The man with the title of King over such country should not be given any excuses for lack of leadership on these issues. If he is too old, too uneducated, too weak, too ….. he should step aside and hand power to a more capable person (even if that person is from the family).

  35. @Moq,
    I didn’t say his intent was to choose more moderates. I am only saying that the government appointees in Jeddah were more moderate than the people elected. It’s what happened.

    I agree with your summary, with the possible exception of I am not sure who he could turn it over to. He could step down, but it isn’t in his hands who it goes to next. And maybe my fears about who the next will be is part of what makes me try to see the situation as a glass half full.

    I can definately see, however. If he wanted just to protect the throne it could also be effectively done by things such as creating a sewage/drainage system in Jeddah. They have so much money, if was invested for the people they could be quite popular. Not every royal family has the means to security through public works. I wish they would see this.

  36. @oby,

    Since you ask, I think there are commentators who always use anecdotal stories to support their arguments. That is great if they are true. However in the case of Lada, I do think they are made up as she goes along.

    Our first encounter with Lada was her arguments that Americans are not polite. She supported that with the story of riding public transportation in California while pregnant and no one will get up to give her a seat.

    As improbable that story is. It gets better. Fast forward a little and she is bragging about living in a very large house in one of the best neighborhoods in Riyadh with a driver, BMW and a Volvo. Nice rags to riches story :)

    Fast forward again, and she is married to a Muslim Indian with a Saudi tribal name. He also allowed his son to be Christian.

    Latest is she is a jet-setter traveling in and out of Saudi at will and smuggling in Christmas trees and bibles.

    I was a mathematician at one point in my life and cannot help bouncing numbers in my head and thinking of the astronomical odds against all of these stories being true :)

  37. @Sandy,

    When governments get corrupt what projects get approved and the quality of the delivery of such projects follow the political strength of those who can benefit from winning the work. That is usually not aligned with the benefits of the country or people. In the case of Jeddah’s drainage system, the needs of the city just simply did not align with the connected elites who can win such mega contracts.

    Given the current situation a mega project will be approved. It will be announced with the typical marketing splash claiming the generosity of the King who is in constant worry about his subjects, his fatherly attention to the comfort of the people of Jeddah, etc. etc.

    This is only the case because this repeated disaster has made it hard to ignore. In all of these cases no royal will be blamed for the incompetence and corruption that led to these disasters and loss of lives.

    Regarding handing power down to a competent Royal as the next King. I never claimed it is easy and not risky. However, true leaders are Bold and can work through difficulty to accomplish important goals. Leaving Saudi with an unpredictable future is riskier than taking such bold step.

    Again, my consistent position on King Abdullah is not that he is more evil than other royals. I always argued against his abilities as a leader, which I see as minimal.

  38. @MOQ
    I also know many people with christmas trees and bibles. They dont really check that much anymore. The only time they’ve stopped and aske dme something is when I’ve had my diving gear in my luggage, which I suspect might look like parts of alcohol brewing factory in the xray :) And even then they will just ask what is that and when I say snorkel they let you go.

    Anyways back to the subject, I do think King Abdullah has tried to diminish or control the power of the religious leaders and for sure he’s done a lot for women’s issues. For example he banned some of them from issuing fatwas after some some sheikhs issued fatwas against women working in supermarkets..and then the mysterious case of Sheikh Al-Ghamdi the defender of womens rights being able to keep his job despite upsetting all the others with his comments. I believe only royal decree could have kept him in his job. Mr AlGhamdi keeps giving very open-minded statements. The new minister of labor which Abdullah appointed is in favor of women working in the public sector.
    The King also appointed the first female minister, and what about KAUST?Isnt this all positive reform in this ultra conservative environment?

    I’m just trying to see the positive side to things here, not denying that sure he could have done this and that but honestly there is so much to do in this country!
    Almost everything needs some kind of change, from the mahrem system to education system, law system, infrastructure, labor laws, women driving and working and the list goes on and on..
    Rome wasn’t built in a day.
    I still think he needs to be given more credit :)
    he is fighting windmills..

  39. @Laylah,

    I am very aware of changes have to happen in a progressive way. However, Saudi has redefined that to be extremely slow to the point where they are lagging behind their neighboring GCC countries by decades.

    Let’s take some of the changes you described:

    – Banning Fatwas: You have to look at the decree first. The decree specifically limited issuing of Fatwas to the ulamah council who appointed by the government. I look at this as more control to the government. I do not see it as giving moderates more voices, especially if you look at the makeup of the current council. Silencing all voices is hardly a step towards free speech, even if some of the voices silenced are radicals.
    – Al-Gamdi did not issue any fatwa which gave freedom for women. You can call him a moderate if you use a measure of a thin hair to distinguish his positions from the average religious leaders in Saudi. He is still a mile away from the positions of other religious leaders outside of Saudi. I will call him a moderate when he takes a position against the Mahram system.
    – Regarding women working as cashiers: If you consider low paying jobs as progress then you need to re-evaluate the goals for women participation in society. Set your goals higher. Think Managers at all levels. Think engineers. Think Minister of labor. etc.
    – One correction on the Minister appointment. He appointed a woman as undersecretary for women education. I mean Dah geez, what an awesome appointment here. After 80 years of Saudi rule they finally got around to giving a token position to a woman in a field relating to women. Further, she was absolutely towing the line of the conservatives when she described the role of women in society in her first interviews. You should be disappointed :)
    – KAUST: I think the idea of investing in education is good. I have a few issues with the project 1) it carries the name of the King, which does give me a suspicion that such large project is done to advance his legacy 2) it costs too much with lavish buildings and centers (could have been done at a fraction of the cost and the extra money invested somewhere else, say a Water DRAINAGE system for the second largest city), 3) very small student population mostly none Saudi’s who will not stay to benefit the country.

    Regarding giving him credit, I will when I see any move that is a sign of a Bold Leader. For example implementing Judicial reform which he promised 2 years ago and assigned billions of Dollars to it. So far not even a simple debate started about codifying the Laws. So far just a lot of talk about more buildings to house courts (in a typical Saudi fashion, valuing the veneer over substance).

    Yes we all should think positive, but when you look at the sad situation of Saudi it is hard to be positive:

    – Women are still being abused and denied simple freedoms
    – The government is still as corrupt today as it was 10 years ago
    – The education system is one of the worst in the world.
    – The system of transferring power to the new generation is not well defined and can lead to a disaster
    – Major cities drowning in small amounts of rain
    – etc.

    All of the above and we have people here who want us to stand up and clap for the man who leads such disastrous system. Get real please!!!

  40. @MoQ
    You live in a very dark world, I am sorry for you…
    My family is wonderfuly enjoying every nice experience God sends our way. Wish you could have the same. Enjoy your life, MoQ…

  41. Yeah, and for those, who is still not sure, how is it all possible – please, let’s meet, I will introduce you to my Christian child and his Indian Muslim father with Saudi last name.
    Just do not chicken out… Because, that is what you do… Had an experience…

  42. Sure I would love to meet the clan. I will send my driver, you are all invited for Pork Ribs BBQ at my Yacht. And do not worry, I will get more lamps to make the place less dark :)

  43. That is what I was sure about… Anyway, it is up to you…

  44. [...] Centers are prolific throughout Saudi Arabia and open to all to learn about Islam.  King Abdullah has funded an interfaith dialogue center in Vienna.   Yet wouldn’t it be prudent to have open [...]

  45. [...] Centers are prolific throughout Saudi Arabia and open to all to learn about Islam.  King Abdullah has funded an interfaith dialogue center in Vienna.   Yet wouldn’t it be prudentArticle source: [...]

  46. excellent character in islamic trust

  47. Saudi Arabia holding a conference on religious tolerance is a mockery, it’s like China holding a conference on Human Rights, or Mexicon on Fair Labour relations. Religion is an opiat for the masses.

  48. [...] is also becoming known as a Kingdom of Contradiction.  On one hand the King himself is calling for interfaith dialogues and initiatives yet on the other hand, young Saudi national Hamza Kashgari is fighting for his life [...]

  49. @all above

    Interfaith Dialogue is mokery. Actually there are three faiths we always talk about,1)Tora (MOSES), Bible( JESUS) Quran (MOHAMMAD).
    Now we have a choice to follow—Moses,Jesus or Mohammad. If we follow Moses, we have to follow TORA, if we choose Jesus we have to follow BIBLE and if we choose Mohammad we have to follow QURAN.
    Choice is open to every one on this planet. But the”Interfaith Dialogue” can be successful if we mix up all three books and prepare a “NEW INTERFAITH TESTAMENT” which is acceptable to all three faiths.
    I wonder if Christians, Jews and Muslims can agree to this. I shall be grateful if any one on this planet can suggest the way to do it?
    IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSSIBLE.

  50. That’s an interesting concept, Sami.

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