"The conference provides an opportunity for Saudi Arabia, which prohibits the public practice of non-Islamic faiths, to present a more tolerant image on the world stage. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were Saudis.
The meeting this week also provided Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni an opportunity to highlight her commitment to peace talks on the eve of elections in Israel, in which her ruling Kadima party will run on its ability to secure peace with the country’s Arab neighbors. It also signaled that Israel’s leaders are making some progress toward better relations with Saudi Arabia, which does not recognize Israel. In a rare gesture, Abdullah agreed to attend a dinner with the Israeli president on Tuesday night hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The two leaders, however, ate at separate tables and did not speak to each other." Washpost
The Salafism that is the official position in Saudi Arabia has not previously allowed such an attitude. There are no churches, temples or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The traditional Islamic recognition of the kinship of the three "Heavenly Religions" is stretched mighty fine in "The Kingdom." No public practise of Judaism or Christianity is allowed. Society there has followed an unrelenting path of hostility to other faiths, indeed to other interpretations of Islam within the Sunni "community." On that basis and in the belief that God’s Will must be done in the establishment of Wahhabi Salafism, many bad things have been done, and extremist splinter groups like Al-Qa’ida were allowed to develop.
There is a new spirit abroad in the lands of the Middle East. Something new is being discussed in the mosque universites and among the ulema’. Is there an opening for a general diplomatic campaign that might to some extent reconcile the peoples?
In the Middle East, religion, government, economics and war are all intimately and inextricably linked. Peace can not be made without religious reconciliation. There was no Renaissance in the Middle East, no Protestant Reformation. The European historical phenomena that separated lfe into the different spheres of "sacred" and "profane" never really occurred in the Islamic World. That set of ideas is an import from the West. The paradigm that dictates separation of things like "church" and "state" never prevailed in the area. The neocon folly was rooted in the idea that it had. There have been many attempts to transplant the idea of the division of life on the Western pattern. Nationalism, Communism, Baathism, socialism; the list is lengthy. All failed. They foundered on the shoal of the solidity of the local forms that continue to persist so strongly.
If the door to religious and therefore political reconciliation begins to open, let us hope that diplomacy will walk thought it. "Tawhiid" can have many meanings. pl