CUSTODIAN of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, addressed the Civilizations Dialogue between Japan and the Islamic World on Monday, calling for “brotherly and sincere dialogue between believers from all religions.” It is a laudable sentiment and one which should be transformed vigorously into concrete action.
The King has clearly taken the lead in chipping away at the walls that separate adherents to the world’s great religions. His unprecedented trip to visit the Pope in Rome earlier this year was a courageously proactive move and one which showed a profound recognition of the need for dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
Even the OIC’s recent pronouncements against what it termed “Islamaphobia” in the West reflects a recognition that this planet belongs to all of us, our religion or national origin.
The responsibility for initiating productive interfaith dialogue lies with responsible leaders of all religions. Too often, shrill voices of extremists dominate any so-called “dialogue,” commanding the attention of sensation-mongering media more interested in profit than conveying authentic information.
It has long been contention of responsible observers in the West that Islam lacks prominent moderate leaders whose voices can be heard above those of violent extremists. As custodian of the mosque, which all Muslims face when in prayer, King Abdullah has begun to assume the mantle of a leader of the Muslim world whose voice on the world stage rings with reason.
The West, of course, must listen and educate itself about the true nature of Islam. In the minds of many, 9/11 was a reflection of Islam, not the actions of an insane few who twisted Islam into a belief system unrecognizable to the vast majority of Muslims.
The road to mutual understanding is a long one, but strong, moderate leaders on all sides must make a very public initiative to travel that road. King Abdullah is making a sincere effort to encourage that journey. It is something Saudi Arabia should be proud of.