How odd is it that a country that represses religious diversity at home, is promoting religious tolerance abroad? Today is the opening day of the Culture of Peace meeting at the United Nations, sponsored by Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations avoids religious discussions, so the two-day session of the General Assembly is officially being labeled as a meeting about the “culture of peace.” Most of those attending are political rather than religious figures.
ged Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. But Western states considered that wording a knock against freedom of speech.
“We are arguing human rights, they are arguing values,” said Jean-Maurice Ripert, France’s ambassador to the United Nations. “The reconciliation of those two differences is very complicated.”
The compromise formula is that there will be no formal resolution, but an oral statement that condemns disparaging other religions.
Saudi Arabia bars its citizens and its sprawling expatriate community, including tens of thousands of Christians, from any public worship outside Islam. The more than two million Saudi Shiites face widespread discrimination in worship, education and employment.
Diplomats around the [UN] building noted that because the Saudi government recently donated $500 million to the World Food Program, no one was likely to confront it openly about domestic issues of religious freedom.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement which says, in part: “There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, yet the kingdom asks the world to listen to its message of religious tolerance…The dialogue should be about where religious intolerance runs deepest, and that includes Saudi Arabia.”