July 28, 2008 / 6:40 PM / in 10 years

Qaeda slams Saudi king over interfaith dialogue

DUBAI (Reuters) - A key al Qaeda figure denounced Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, saying in an Internet video that an interfaith dialogue the monarch called for aimed to replace Islam with a “modern faith” acceptable to Jews and Christians.

The message from Abu Yahya al-Libi followed a groundbreaking Saudi-sponsored interfaith conference in Spain this month in which King Abdullah called on followers of the world’s major faiths to turn away from extremism and seek reconciliation.

“The call for a rapprochement of religions issued by the (Saudi) tyrant ... is not a spontaneous call ... but is an integral part of the overt Crusader war against Islam and Muslims ... God’s enemies only want us to abandon our religion,” Libi said in the video posted on Islamist websites on Monday.

“This in fact is a call to turn one’s back on Islam and ... to look for commonalities with Judaism and Christianity so whatever the three agree on would become the new modern religion which would be allowed to be propagated,” Libi said.

Libi frequently issues messages on behalf of al Qaeda which appears to be grooming him as a top group spokesman since he escaped from a U.S. jail in Afghanistan in 2005.

The Madrid gathering aimed to draw Muslims, Jews and Christians closer together and isolate those who use religion to justify violence or intolerance. It was the first time Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims cannot practice their faith openly, had invited Jews to such a meeting.

The king also invited Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs as he showcased a more tolerant side to Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabi Islam, under fire since 15 Saudis were among the 19 Arabs who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

The meeting could not take place in Saudi Arabia, where traditional clerics have shunned contact with non-Muslims and even seen other Muslims, particularly Shi‘ites, as infidels.

Reporting by Firouz Sedarat, edited by Richard Meares

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