UN appoints Saudi Arabia to lead on religious tolerance
This is the Islamic kingdom that tortures ‘apostates’ and executes those who convert from Islam; the Islamic kingdom that bans all Bibles and demands that visitors display no symbols of other faiths; the Islamic kingdom that forbids the public practice of other religious faiths; the Islamic kingdom which has essentially no separation between religion and government; the Islamic kingdom whose citizens enjoy little religious freedom; the Islamic kingdom which bans the celebration of all religious festivals except Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha; the Islamic kingdom which itself denies ‘the right to practice one's religion’ and falls foul of the principles of religious freedom enshrined in the UN Charter.
This is the kingdom which even limits the practice of Islam to that of a school of the Sunni branch of Islam as interpreted by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, the godfather of Wahhabism which advocates a return to the practices of the first three generations of Islamic history. This, of course, was Islam at its most enlightened, tolerant and benevolent.
A nation that oppresses its religious minorities cannot have the moral authority to lead a conference which purports to be concerned with religious tolerance. The Islamic kingdom does not manifest any and is therefore not qualified to preside over the dialogue. In fact, one Saudi national who serves as director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs is of the opinion that Saudi Arabia is ‘the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia’.
Notwithstanding this inconvenient reality, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said of the inter-faith meeting: “The values it aims to promote are common to all the world's religions and can help us fight extremism, prejudice and hatred."
And he has the support of the General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto, a (former) Roman Catholic priest from Nicaragua who is co-chairman of the conference. He said: “We're not here to talk about religion... We're here to talk about tapping our innermost values and putting them at the service of the world's neediest people.”
A UN conference on religious tolerance which will not talk about religion and which is presided over by one of the world’s most intolerant nations.
The United Nations is morally bankrupt. It may never have been conceived as an organisation of saints, but one might expect admission to a community of sinners to at least be predicated upon the notion of practising what one preaches, and honouring those who are faithful to its aims and objectives.