Pull the other one, it's got bells on.
I think the reporter who wrote the article is fully aware of the irony involved:
Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom, is sponsoring a discussion at the United Nations on religious tolerance starting Wednesday. [snip]
King Abdullah, you might recall, is the genius who hit headlines last March when he first floated the idea of interfaith dialogues. You'll never guess what his motivation was:
Saudi Arabia forbids its citizens and the sprawling expatriate community, including tens of thousands of Christians, from any form of public worship except for Islam. Even within Islam, the more than two million Shiites in the kingdom face widespread discrimination in worship, education and employment. The intolerance also extends to Sunni Islam. Only the teachings of the Hanbali sect are encouraged, while the other three main branches of the faith are opposed.
A special police force patrols the kingdom making sure that Muslims go to prayer five times a day and that no other religion is practiced.
The Saudi government often portrays King Abdullah as a reformer, doing what he can to oppose a puritanical religious establishment. They cite the interfaith dialogue as a prime example of that kind of reform.
The king recently had a bright idea: Bring together representatives of the world’s monotheistic religions for a confab.
Many media outlets reported this as a positive thing. After all, Muslims and Jews would sit down together in Riyadh. Wouldn’t that dialogue be a good thing? The Washington Post even praised Abdullah’s action as a sign of tolerance.
A large chunk of the world’s population might have reason to feel differently. Let’s look at the details: Abdullah has a plan to unite Islam, Judaism and Christianity against a common foe — non-believers.
The Times of London reported:
According to the official Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah said, “I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Koran, the Torah and the Bible. We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty and sincerity for our religions and humanity.”
Unacceptable? That makes me a bit nervous. After all, homosexuality is “unacceptable” in Saudi Arabia. It can warrant the death penalty.
Imagine if Abdullah has singled out just about any other class of people. Pretend he had said Hinduism is increasing, and this is unacceptable. Substitute Buddhists, Sikhs, followers of Confucius or whatever. Can you imagine the uproar? Would any Christian or Jewish religious leader endorse such talks?
Apparently it’s OK to declare a new crusade as long as it’s aimed at religious skeptics. Ironically, the same day Abdullah called for interfaith dialogue, his government formally denied a request from the Vatican to build the first Christian church in Saudi Arabia. It is, after all, illegal to worship as a Christian in that country. This guy’s going to teach us how to be tolerant? No thanks.
So here we have the king of one of the most intolerant regimes in the world, calling a modern-day witchhunt from the hallowed halls of the UN, wanting to unite Christians, Jews and Muslims in the common cause of bashing atheists. And if Hindus et al think they're going to get in on this sweet deal, they've got another think coming: you'll notice that King Abdullah's dream of "interfaith" outreach includes only the People of the Book. Other religions need not apply.
It would be nice if the world's religions could learn to get along. It would be even nicer if tolerance wasn't being preached by an intolerant son of a bitch, and if they weren't making nice with each other just so they could all gang up on us godless folk.
But fine. They want to play that way, we'll play. As Steven Pinker once said, "The problem in dealing with people is that people can deal back." We can indeed. I think we can deal by sending in a delegation from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Let's see how tolerant these fuckers really are.
(Just for the record: I really, really miss Morbo.)