Saudi Arabia: Timing Critical for Interfaith Outreach and Understanding

With the ongoing evolving events in the Middle East and Africa the timing could not be more critical or pertinent for outreach initiatives between non-Muslims and Muslims.  Too many non-Muslims have a broad gap of misunderstanding and/or fear of Islam which carries over to Muslim people.  Additionally Saudi national l Khalid Ali M. Aldawsari arrest in Texas for attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction because of his hatred of “American infidels” has further served to promote the worst impression of a Muslim and of Islam.

While most of the protests and revolt in the Muslim world are not because of religious beliefs, the intensity of the demonstrations and protests in the Muslim world instills apprehension more than excitement.  Some of the revolts such as those in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen remind me when Eastern Europe and the Berlin Wall fell in a domino outcry for independence.  On the other hand the demonstrations in Bahrain seem similar to Apartheid although the division is between the Sunni and Shii’a Muslims.  In Libya demonstrations are against a maniacal Muslim leader who vows he will kill his nation’s Muslim citizens before giving in to demands to step down.

Fear of these protests and uprise in the Middle East is in part because it is the Muslim world which is uprising and creating instability.  There is a global fear of what the unrest means for the world’s oil supply.  There is unease not knowing what Iran may do or how it may respond to ongoing events.  Will Iran, which is a Shii’a majority country, covertly or openly promote further unrest in the region?

Last but not least, where does Saudi Arabia fall within ongoing events in the region?  After all, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest supplier of oil.  The Shii’a minority in Saudi’s Eastern Province have expressed they are discriminated against and in the past few weeks have held several quiet protests of their own. There are other rumblings by the people of Saudi Arabia expressing anger and discontent on the need for economic reforms, changes in the government, creation of more jobs, more opportunities for women as well as other issues.  Saudi Woman’s blog gives a good picture on the challenges and issues faced on whether or not to openly protest in the Kingdom.  11 March 2011 has been called a national day of protest but time has yet to tell if that will take place or simply be a virtual protest.

Events are going to unfold as prophesized.  Yet with ongoing uncertainty in the Middle East region with the ability to have ramifications across the globe, this is an excellent time for interfaith outreach and dialogues towards understanding and dispelling fears between non-Muslims and Muslims.  It doesn’t matter where non-Muslims and Muslims are co-located, as Nike says, Just Do It!  Reach out to one another to talk and to share.  Agree to disagree on issues neither will see the same yet at least hear and acknowledge an understanding of the difference of view such as Palestine, Christian’s belief of a Holy Trinity or Jews called God’s Chosen People.


11 Responses

  1. I know the world is waiting with bated breath what will happen in Saudia. I know the US def. is. Most of it is for selfish reasons because of the oil…I know it scares me also. But I ALSO know that Saudis deserve reform on so many levels…some to deal with the women’s issues, others for the unemployment rate, WASTA…you name it.

  2. I totally agree!

  3. Good idea!

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against any outreach initiatives between Muslims and non Muslims but I am failing to understand why the current events in North Africa and the Middle East should make such talks ‘critical’. What does what is happening there have to do with me and my Pakistani Muslim neighbors?

    I am not at all afraid of what is happening but I am rather pleased to see that they are finally standing up and taking action for themselves. As I see it, only good can come from it and there is nothing to fear. If, when the dust settles, we have governments that are difficult to deal with, so be it. It’s not like we’ve had all easy ones in the past.

  5. With the exception of Bahrain, the current unrest is tacitly non-religious, and any attempt to turn it into anything other than a group of disenfranchised people who are finally courageous enough to stand up and be heard consequences be damned is just plain wrong, in my opinion.

    That said, the violent reaction of some governments which proclaim themselves to be Islamic in nature, surely is unnerving and further “proves” the tendency toward violent solutions which many associate with followers of Islam.

    I don’t think interfaith dialogue is needed as much as is a good hard look inward by those whose knee jerk response to change is ruthless violence under the cloak of religion.

  6. I don’t see any particular need for outreach at this time, and I find the official outreach programs from Saudi nothing but bullshit (until the Saudis allow a church in Saudi Arabia it is all a sham). The Arab Revolution has nothing to do with any conflict betweeen Muslims and others.

  7. Agree with Jerry M. Unless there is a Church here and unless the people of other faith being shunned as kafirs here stops, there is absolutely no meaning in reaching out…

  8. There remain 1000’s of foreign muslim students in the US and there are muslim students associations. These groups would be great groups to reach out to for fellowship, dialogue and outreach. These students would also be returning back to their home countries. Perhaps an outreach before they return home may help different groups find further understanding.

  9. Carol, do you define understanding between faiths as understanding between Muslims, Christian, and Jews?

    What about other faiths?

  10. @Anon,

    I will define Islam, Judaism and Christianity as the faiths identified as Abrahamic religions and then there are other faiths not recognized as an Abrahamic faith. Yet for an interfaith outreach, does it matter? We all should be talking to one another towards understanding. I do though want to underscore that I think so much of Islam and thereby Muslims is misunderstood or seen now with fear and apprehension so that it is very important for outreach and dialogue to Muslims.

  11. I would also like an answer to Lynn’s question.

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