Religious leaders and Islamic scholars from more than 50 countries gathered for an international conference in Mecca last week to address the challenges facing the Islamic world. The conference was part of a recently announced initiative by Saudi King Abdullah to promote dialogue between Muslims and followers of other monotheistic faiths.
King Abdullah’s tone was one of reconciliation between Islam’s two main branches, Sunni and Shi’a. The King, a Sunni Muslim, was reported to have entered the hall with a leading Shi’a politician, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who later sat at his left in a gesture of unity.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, attended the three-day conference in Mecca. He says King Abdullah’s call for dialogue will have reverberations throughout the Muslim world. Mr. Hooper explains that the King’s plan has two major elements: first, to begin an intra-faith dialogue to reach a point where Muslims can speak with one voice, and second, to launch an inter-faith dialogue with non-Muslims, especially Jews and Christians.
Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Hooper says the dialogue was less about theological issues than about working together on “common principles and values.”. . .
Ibrahim Hooper notes that the tradition of dialogue has its roots in the Qur?an and in early Islamic history. The final communiqué of the conference, he points out, shows clearly that dialogue is an “established procedure,” not only by the Prophet Muhammad but also by “all the messengers of God throughout history.” In fact, the final communiqué mentioned the history of dialogue with the Christian community in Medina at the time of the Prophet, which is known as the “Compact of Medina.” (MORE)