Does anyone else think that organizing a conference on interfaith dialogue—from the Saudia Arabian city of Mecca, a place in which only Muslims are allowed to set foot—is a signal that perhaps the Saudis don’t really mean what they say?
Islam must do away with the dangers of extremism and present the religion’s positive message, Saudi King Abdullah said Wednesday as he opened a conference of Muslim figures aimed at launching a dialogue with Christians and Jews.
The three-day gathering in the holy city of Mecca seeks a unified Muslim voice ahead of the interfaith dialogue. In particular, Saudi Arabia hopes to promote reconciliation between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
By the way, there’s something wrong with that modifier in the second paragraph. Let me fix it.
The three-day gathering in the holy only to Muslims city of Mecca seeks a unified Muslim voice ahead of the interfaith dialogue. In particular, Saudi Arabia hopes to promote reconciliation between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Boy, are they trying to present a united front or what?
“You have gathered today to tell the whole world that … we are a voice of justice and values and humanity, that we are a voice of coexistence and a just and rational dialogue,” Abdullah told the 500 Muslim delegates from 50 Muslim nations in his opening speech.
Yes, justice. It’s the hammer of justice:
Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries where courts continue to impose corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and lashings for lesser crimes such as “sexual deviance” and drunkenness. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and is varied according to the discretion of judges, and ranges from dozens of lashes to several thousand, usually applied over a period of weeks or months. In 2002, the United Nations Committee against Torture criticized Saudi Arabia over the amputations and floggings it carries out under its interpretation of Sharia. The Saudi delegation responded defending “legal traditions” held since the inception of Islam 1400 years ago and rejected interference in its legal system.
It’s the bell of freedom:
Saudi women face severe discrimination in many aspects of their lives, including education, employment, and the justice system and are clearly regarded as inferior to men. Although they make up 70% of those enrolled in universities, women make up just 5% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia, the lowest proportion in the world. The treatment of women has been referred to as “gender apartheid.”[dead link] Implementation of a government resolution supporting expanded employment opportunities for women met resistance from within the labor ministry, from the religious police, and from the male citizenry. These institutions and individuals generally claim that according to Sharia a woman’s place is in the home caring for her husband and family. It is a country where culture and religion make women live mostly restricted segregated lives. There is also segregation inside their own homes as some rooms have separate entrances for men and women. 
It’s the song about love between the brothers and the sisters, all over this land:
Participants said they hoped the gathering would culminate in an agreement on a global Islamic charter on dialogue with Christians and Jews. They expect Saudi Arabia will launch its formal call for an interfaith dialogue at the conference’s close or soon after.
Abdullah’s message, which has been welcomed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, is significant, though it remains unclear who will participate in the second phase of the initiative; in particular whether Israeli religious leaders would be invited.
Color me skeptical.