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Dialogue is Better - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Under the auspices of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, the World Conference on Dialogue is being held in Madrid. Over 200 international figures are expected to attend, including followers of divine religions, cultures and civilizations.

Participants represent approximately 45 states that will take part in the conference held at the Spanish capital.

The objective of the World Conference on Dialogue is to promote dialogue between the world’s major religions. As the Secretariat of Muslim World League succinctly put it, “the conference does not aim to unite religions or to reconcile between them…the differences are there through God’s wisdom and will. The objective of the conference is to spread knowledge and encourage cooperation in hope of attaining positive coexistence.”

The culture of dialogue is a central obsession for King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and he places great emphasis upon it. King Abdullah is responsible for launching Saudi national dialogue on every level, the outcome of which was the collapse of psychological barriers that had previously been considered taboo and the broaching of topics that no one in Saudi Arabia had dared to approach.

Today we are witnessing King Abdullah’s conviction about the importance of dialogue, which has developed into interfaith dialogue which aims to break the distance barrier and defuse the religious tension that has ravaged the world following the wave of global terrorism.

Today, we see the spread of Islamphobia in Europe and its danger is no less than the danger posed by some Muslim communities based in Europe that breed hate. The advantage of dialogue is that it confronts us with the ‘Other’ and puts us face-to-face with one another. Moreover, it also breaks the isolation that is the outcome of many things, including ignorance of the ‘Other’; fear of moderation – and unfortunately, it is as though moderation were a vice!

It is enough to examine isolated incidents that have almost resulted in setbacks; the crisis of the Danish cartoons insulting the Prophet (PBUH) and films that were offensive to Islam. There is also a danger that threatens some Arab states in which the sons of one nation are inciting one another against the sons of other religions, and this portends great evil. Some of these issues have not been dealt with in the Arab media for fear of inciting hatred and dire consequences.

Today, the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid, under the patronage of the Saudi monarch, will open up a wide gateway for discussion and debate among specialists who will tackle pertinent and pressing issues that cannot be ignored since there is significant religious tension, especially in light of the media and technology revolution.

We are now witnessing and hearing immensely instigative claims that enter into houses and reach the public and there is no way to block them. Encouraging dialogue is more effective than censorship and restraint and it will also lead to further knowledge and greater respect.

Therefore, the World Conference on Dialogue is critical and the initiative behind it belongs to King Abdullah – and how can it not be since he is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques? Moreover, the conference is held at a time when we are in most need of dialogue and communication and if the wise ones do not do that now then the instigators of hatred, who never tire of spreading their poison, will be the ones to benefit from the technological revolution.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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