Saudi king says Islam must do away with extremism

Thursday, June 05, 2008 |  staff writer

Saudi King Abdullah said Wednesday that Islam must do away with extremism and present the positive side of the religion.

The king made these statements at the opening of a conference of 500 Muslims from 50 nations who plan to launch an interfaith dialogue with Christians and Jews. The goal of the three-day gathering in Mecca is to unite Muslim voices particularly, Shiites and Sunnis.

“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 said.

Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani sat on the stage, signaling that the Sunni kingdom does not have a problem with moderate Shiites.

“Our brothers in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... have presented a great message to all humanity in the world,” Rafsanjani said. “Before we speak with other religions, we must speak among ourselves and reach an understanding on a particular Islamic path.”

If the interfaith dialogue does occur, it would be the first such initiative from a nation with no diplomatic ties to Israel. Participants expect Saudi Arabia will launch its formal call for an interfaith dialogue at the conference's close or soon after. It is still unclear whether Israeli religious leaders would be invited.

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