RIYADH (AFP) — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whose country is home to Islam's holiest shrines, will launch an inter-faith conference in Spain later this month, the palace said Saturday.
The Saudi monarch "will inaugurate the international dialogue conference which will be held under his auspices in Madrid on July 16-18," a statement carried by the official SPA news agency said.
The agency said the king had left for Morocco on a private visit ahead of the conference due to be attended by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In March, King Abdullah proposed talks among the three largest monotheistic religions in a first for the kingdom, which hosts Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina.
Last month the Mecca-based Muslim World League said the Madrid meeting would bring together representatives from the "followers of God's messages and other cultures."
The term "other cultures" appeared to refer to non-monotheistic religions which Muslims do not recognise as proper religions, unlike Christians and Jews considered under Islam to be People of the Book.
The conference will "discuss cooperation between communities from different religions and cultures over common human values," the league's secretary general Abdullah al-Turki said.
Leading Islamic scholars meeting in the holy city of Mecca in early June also proposed creating a centre to promote relations between religions.
Despite such overtures, Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab Muslim country to ban all non-Islamic religious practices on its soil, even though it has a large community of non-Muslim expatriates.
Last November King Abdullah met Pope Benedict XVI during the first official visit to the Vatican by a monarch from the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom.
The Saudi dynasty plays the world of politics very well. Their main interest is money, power and prestige in the kingdom. They try to contain the west if not to make them play their music. They try to present themselves as the wise Muslims who wants the dialogue so they preclude Muslims who are angry with them from getting closer to the west or being seen in the west as better alternative than them.
Why they did not make a conference about tyranny and injustice in the Muslim world. Why they did not present mega plans to the poor Muslims every where. They are still looking and hoping for the old world to continue where they own the big money and invest a lot of them in the west. As well to continue enjoy power and prestige and close connection to the western politicians. Some of them will feel more comfortable with them than with a guy like me talking about justice and the poor. The good thing I am not playing my music alone like I did in the past but many of the Muslims are playing my music and even the Non-Muslims.