“Interview with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia” by Alix Van Buren

Alix Van Buren of Italy's leading paper, La Repubblica, writes:

Just came back from Morocco, where I interviewed Saudi King Abdullah.


I was requested to join him in Casablanca where he stays for part of the Summer in one of his several Moroccan palaces. I'm enclosing a rough transcript of the interview in English, much as the Saudi Info Minister sent it. There are other questions I asked him verbally in Casà but those are in Italian in the published interview (out today). The verbal answers don't add much, except when he says:

"Listen to me carefully, I am speaking for myself and for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We were already very disappointed when the price of oil reached $100. Imagine now, that it is expected to climb up to $200".
Naturally, that is the sentence I used as the lead of the published interview… If you read the transcript between the lines, he has very harsh words for America. He's tough on Israel, but that we could expect. What is absolutely surprising is his opening to the other religions. In person, he said to me:
"I am deeply convinced that every Heavenly religion has good things for the benefit of humanity". Coming from the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques and from the Guardian of the Islamic orthodoxy, that is quite historic. Wouldn't you say?

Interview of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
with La Repubblica Newspaper (by Alix Van Buren) 

QUESTION 1: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz: What prompted you to call for the convening the Madrid conference on dialogue of religions, and to invite believers of different religions and cultures from all over the world? What are the results you hope for? What makes you so concerned about the fate of humanity in this world? 

ANSWER 1: The need for dialogue; between believers of different religions and cultures is called for by the current World conditions and the many crises faced by human communities. Also, the growing challenges that threaten to worsen existing economic, political and social problems and to deepen human suffering. Such condition prevails at a time characterized by wide spread of injustices, corruption and immorality, and the breakup of the family – the basic unit of all societies. Humanity is moving away from noble values and principles that form the essence of all religions and beliefs .  We are part of this world. We influence and are influenced by it. We are a nation of a sublime mission and deeply rooted cultural heritage. Our religion urges us to embrace the principle of dialogue and call upon us to cooperate and coexist in peace with others, and promote understanding, peace, accord and good values among all humans. My optimism stems from the broad positive response to the call for dialogue on the part of many circles, both inside the Muslim world and at all level of various religious and cultural levels around the world. 

QUESTION 2: You have organized an International Islamic Conference in Makkah. Do you see that Conference as one that provided an opportunity to improve relations between Muslim countries, as well as those between Sunnis and Shiites? You entered the Conference Hall holding the hands of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and the former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjan. Does this picture symbolize better understanding between the two countries and the two sects?

ANSWER 2: We always look forward to establish accord and peace not only among Muslims with their various sects, but also between the peoples of the world with all their beliefs. Muslim scholars have not encountered difficulties in their Islamic Conference in Makkah in terms of stressing the principle of dialogue, since dialogue is an integral part of our Islamic teachings. God   ordered   us   to   have dialogue in the Quran, and Our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) also urged us to do the same. The policy of Saudi Arabia is also based on these principles. 

QUESTION 3: What is the current status of dialogue with the Vatican after your  historic visit to Pope Benedict XVI? Do you expect the coming dialogue to help heal up the deep wounds suffered by both sides, and ally Muslims' fear of new crusades, and Christians' fear of extremists who threaten values and cultures of the West? What is your response to al-Qaeda's denunciation of the dialogue among religions?

ANSWER 3: We can remove mistrust and suspicions from our minds through the principle of dialogue. A dialogue that underscores human commonalities which find their expression in all religions, beliefs and cultures. The all call for good in all its forms, and reject evil in all its manifestations. We will then realize that values and principles that unite us are more than those dividing us.  The differences that exist between cultures and societies in general are a matter of course and an eternal fact of the universe.

But it is forces of extremism, injustice and darkness that often seek to exaggerate and exploit these differences for the purpose of instigating conflicts and wars, thus bringing about a chaotic situation around the world. That is why we find them always in panic when they feel that there is an effort to engage in dialogue and promote understanding instead of confrontation and rivalry. These same forces know that dialogue is the effective way to abort their evil plans that are contrary to all religions and human beliefs, and inherent human nature. 

QUESTION 4: The G8 met after the Jeddah Energy Meeting, in an attempt to resolve the crisis of hiking prices of crude oil. But expectations are not optimistic and prices are continuing to rise. What bothers you most about the consequences of this international crisis? And what are, in your opinion, the main reasons for the continuous rise in oil prices? 

ANSWER 4:  Stability of the world oil market is the common goal of both the producers and the consumers, and we are striving hard to reach it. In spite of the fact that the Kingdom and a number of oil producing countries have raised their production capacity, we have not detected a positive response at the international oil market. This demonstrates the extent of the effect of other causes and factors on the market prices outside the framework of supply and demand.

Most importantly, speculations in the international oil market, and the imposition in many oil consuming nations of additional taxes on imported oil. Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of oil consuming and producing countries in Jeddah to discuss the current situation of the oil market. We believe that strengthening cooperation between the parties in tackling the global oil situation with all the variable that influence and impact the price of oil to the consumer is the guarantor to stabilize international oil market. 

We followed-up closely the meeting of the G8, and the resulting resolutions, including a call for dialogue between producers and consumers. It may be important to note here that a World Energy Forum has already been established, with Riyadh hosting its secretariat-general to achieve the goals of dialogue and to coordinate between producers and consumers.  In the context of our endeavor to protect the environment and address global climate change, Saudi Arabia has established the King Abdullah Center for Oil Research and Studies, in order to seek technology that would preserve the environment on one hand, and contribute to global economic growth on the other.

These efforts include a fund for energy, environment and climate change, as initialed by the Kingdom and announced during the third OPEC summit in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia contributed three hundred million dollars to this effort. I might add that this program will fund research in many areas including carbon emissions. We urge the G8 to support these existing programs and projects rather than make duplicate efforts in similar programs. 

QUESTION 5: Food shortage is the second crisis affecting the world after the oil crisis. What is the scenario, which you see, that would occur in the future regarding the scarcity of food and causes of food shortage? Will Saudi Arabia follow the example of China and invest in the fertile lands in other countries to ensure food security in the future?

ANSWER 5: The world has to put this crisis on the top of its list of priorities. It must double the effort internationally to address the food crisis because it has a direct bearing on the life of every human being. Saudi Arabia has dealt with this crisis at three main levels: 

First: It has supported the World Food Program (WFP) with 500 million US dollars in response to the world appeal to cope up with the increase in global fuel prices and food commodities. 

Second: It is pursuing a medium-and-long-term strategy to launch agricultural investment initiatives aiming at development and enhancement of agricultural products in countries that have the prerequisites for agriculture. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agricultural experience, technology, and capital to invest in this area. The initiative is not only limited to buying land or even leasing them, but it also includes technology transfer and exchange of expertise, and development of agricultural companies, and other steps that would contribute to increasing agricultural crops and providing food to the world in order to alleviate the crisis. 

Third: We have been working to strengthen international cooperation to solve the crisis through our call at the Jeddah Conference to launch the "energy for the poor" initiative to enable developing countries to meet the increasing energy costs. We called on the World Bank to hold a meeting as soon as possible for donors' countries, as well as regional and international financial institutions, to discuss this initiative and put it into effect. We proposed to the Council of Ministers of the OPEC Fund for International Development to meet and consider the adoption of a parallel program and allocate one billion U.S. dollars to it. Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to financially contribute to these programs within the framework to be agreed upon.

Also, we have allocated $500 million U.S. dollars of low-interest loans through the Saudi Development Fund to finance projects that help developing countries obtain energy and initiate other development projects.  Undoubtedly these objectives require efforts from all countries of the world. 

QUESTION 6: The continuation of the Arab- Israeli conflict poses a third challenge. In case failure of the Annapolis conference, the only remaining peace plans on the table remaining is the Arab peace initiative presented by you in 2002. What made you put forward this peace initiative? Is this peace plan still in place and implementable? After 60 years of establishing the state of Israel, is it closer to live in peace with its Arab neighbors?

ANSWER 6: The Arab comprehensive Peace Initiative reflects the overall Arab sincere and serious will towards achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of international legitimacy and laws. The Arab initiative is regarded as one of the main points of reference in the peace process, which the Riyadh Arab Summit re-emphasized. In addition to the Arab initiative, there are several international initiatives aiming at advancing the peace process in the region.

But all these efforts and initiatives are still colliding with an Israeli policy of rejection and of continuous seizure of more Palestinian land, building new settlements, expanding existing ones, and imposing all kinds of unjust restrictions and the imposition of a siege on the Palestinian people in clear defiance of all international laws and ethical principles. Whenever the Arabs and the world make a step forward towards peace, Israel embarks on polices of injustice, aggression against the Palestinian people. Therefore, the international community is urged, more than ever, to deal seriously with the Israeli intransigence, so that the longest crisis in modern history would find its way to solution.  

QUESTION 7: Are you concerned about Iran's strengthening its power in Iraq and presenting its new strength in the region?

ANSWER 7: Iraq is in a dire need of being free from external interference in its internal affairs by any party, so that it can move forward in its efforts to achieve security, stability and prosperity and maintain its national unity and sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Iraqi people are capable of achieving these objectives with a sincere and serious national will, and full sense of one country among all Iraqis, regardless of ethnic backgrounds and political and religious affiliations.                                                             

QUESTION 8; Has Iran the right to continue its nuclear program? What is the extent of the damage caused by President Ahmadinejad's statements concerning the elimination of Israel? Israel has recently conducted military exercises simulating an attack on Iran. What are the results of such an attack? 

ANSWER 8: Nuclear proliferation in the region does not serve its security and stability. We hope that all countries of the region follow the policy of the GCC and the Arab League to make the Middle East and the Gulf region free from all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. As regards to the Iranian nuclear issue, we call for abandoning the language of tension and escalation, and the adopting of diplomatic solutions to this issue. As long as diplomatic efforts are still active and ongoing, I do not think there is room for discussing other options. The responsibility about statements made by certain countries lies in the countries making these statements.

QUESTION 9: Some people believe that the United States has lost its traditional influence in the region, because of its policies and because of the emergence of other competitive looking for a role. What do you think of this? Has it become difficult for America's friends to continue defending it? 

ANSWER 9: We think that the situation in the region requires every possible international effort in light of the difficult crisis it faces. Whether this effort is American, Russian, European, Islamic or Arab, we will not hesitate to support it as long as it is sincere and serious in dealing with these crises, and as long as it aims at achieving regional security and stability and prosperity, including the legitimate rights of the people of the region. Our international friendships are based on the defense of those rights and interests of the region and its peoples and nothing else. 

QUESTION 10: What has been achieved so far in Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism? Do you think that you have defeated AI-Qaeda end rid the country of its supporters? Or is there a need for more efforts to be exerted in this context? Is the world making enough efforts to fight terrorism? 

ANSWER 10: Observers of the Saudi efforts in fighting terrorism must feel the significant achievements we have made in fighting this scourge sedition over the past years. These achievements would not have been possible without the blessing of God, and the courage and sacrifices of the security forces, and the Saudi people standing united in confronting this phenomenon extraneous to their religion, society and culture. Since the beginning of recent terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, we adopted a comprehensive strategy to fight it. This strategy does not depend on its security side only, but also it includes fighting the financing of terrorism, and dealing with its intellectual roots through the adoption of an integrated program for defying the deviant thought and rehabilitating its followers and giving counseling and advice to them.

In this regard we called for an international conference to combat terrorism, which was convened in Riyadh. The conference called for the establishment of a counter-terrorism center for the purpose of prompt exchange of information, and adopt preemptive measure to prevent terrorist action. However the proposed center is yet to be established in spite of the support of many members of the world community. In addition we are working assiduously towards closer regional and international cooperation to confront the phenomenon. We are continuing with our efforts in this strategy till completely eliminating this phenomenon and drying up its sources, and the deviant thought leading to it. We still believe that the international community can exert better efforts in close cooperation and coordination to tighten the noose on terrorist networks wherever they exist, and deprive them of any safe havens that could be used to threaten the international community.  // END //

Comments (70)

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51. Nour said:


I have no problem with publishing interviews with King Abdallah, although the transcript of the interview was clearly doctored. But I was disappointed in seeing such an interview take precedence over the events in Lebanon yesterday. I’m glad to see that you have devoted coverage to this event now, but I would urge you to give both sides of all stories.

The whole story of Quntar “bashing” the head of a 4-year-old girl is merely the “Israeli” version of the event. The full transcript of the trial was only released recently, whereby Quntar is quoted as saying that he never saw the girl and does not know what happened to her. “Israel” has a long history of lying and fabricating evidence to push its own agenda. It has been “Israeli” policy to demonize and dehumanize the Resistance as much as possible so as not to shed light on its own criminal nature and in order to prevent anyone from seeing the rise of the Resistance from a humanistic standpoint, where people who were stripped of their land and their rights are struggling and fighting to regain them.

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July 17th, 2008, 2:28 pm


52. Qifa Nabki said:


I have heard about the two versions, but let me ask you: does it matter, in your opinion, that the historical record is ambiguous?

In other words, let’s say that Quntar admitted to killing the four-year old girl in exactly the manner described.

How would you feel about him and his release today?

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July 17th, 2008, 2:45 pm


53. norman said:


Have districts for every 100000 people and divide the districts initially on religious lines but have antidiscrimination laws on housing and jobs, with that the districts will become like the US of different religious groups and income will become the factor of where people live , They need decentralization for Lebanon to have a good democracy.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:06 pm


54. Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

Many people have been talking about the importance of decentralization (esp. Amin Gemayel recently), but I am always wary of it because I am paranoid that it will lead to cantons.

One day you have people electing an empowered municipal board for their own district… then several years later you have people not caring about what happens in other parts of Lebanon as long as their own districts remain the same… then several years later, you have districts developing their own militias to protect themselves against members of other sects, etc.

I prefer to see Lebanon point itself in the direction of one district, rather than multiple ones. But that’s just me.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:15 pm


55. norman said:

That does not happen in the US and the same antidiscrimination laws can apply there and in Syria for that matter , The population will be diverse with these laws.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:24 pm


56. Akbar Palace said:

In other words, let’s say that Quntar admitted to killing the four-year old girl in exactly the manner described.

How would you feel about him and his release today?


I can guess what the answer would be…


BTW – I just want to chime in (because we don’t communitcate very often), that I think you are one of the few voices of reason on this website. I also enjoy your sense of humor.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:27 pm


57. Qifa Nabki said:

Gracias AP but I assure you that I’m just as unreasonable as everyone else. 🙂

Ammo Norman,

I think that what you are proposing is good for the short run. Anyway, we need decentralization because the government has no mandate these days. It would be much easier for a local district board to collect taxes and electricity bills etc. than the government, especially if their budget was determined by their efficiency.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:40 pm


58. norman said:


Agree .Then they have only themselves and their own elected officials to blame.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:45 pm


59. Nour said:


First, I don’t recognize the legitimacy of “Israel,” so I do not accept its imprisonment of any of our people. However, there are definitely certain acts that I would find morally unacceptable, regardless of who committed them against whom. For example, the entire operation of the Achille Loro I feel was a combination of utter stupidity and moral degeneracy. I don’t believe Abu Nidal was a hero in that respect. However, Samir Quntar’s operation was of an entirely different nature and was not for the mere purpose of killing or harming civilians. The story of him bashing the little girl’s skull is strictly intended at painting a horrific picture of the Resistance in an attempt to discredit any justified opposition to the occupation of our land. I’m sure Quntar will be on tv soon enough and we’ll hear his version of the event in question.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:48 pm


60. Sami D said:

QN, If Quntar killed the 4-year-old then he would have committed an immoral crime. Attacking civilians is simply abhorrent; it is also what desperately oppressed and humiliated people sometimes do as other options of relieving legitimate grievances dry up. Having said that, the anti-civilian violence in a conqueror-conquered setting, is predominantly the domain of conquerors. Olmert-Bush demonstrated this clearly in their barbaric attack on Lebanon in 2006 — an act that makes Quntar look like a choir-boy by comparison.

The political context of the whole Quntar issue is central. The symbolism of resistance to Israel, both in Quntar’s crossing Israeli lines into Israel to “do something” about Israeli belligerence, and in Hezbollah successfully getting Israel to release him, is significant. For the mighty mafia don Israel to capitulate to the demands of few who wouldn’t bow their heads, sends an invaluable message to those whose rights have been trampled upon as well as to oppressors.

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July 17th, 2008, 3:59 pm


61. trustquest said:


I tend to agree with you full-hearted, but you and Karim are falling into the trap of comparing between bad and worse. In my humble opinion you are trying to say that this depot is better than the other one and each is bringing the worst in the other. And you guys made me go to my books and study to find that in the Shit industry, they do not favor one against the other. And my dad used to laugh when some one try to proof that he is better than his brother by saying in his back: look he is saying that this shit is better than his brother. And usually these brothers tries to play people when they are not friend, but when they go back to be friend again, we do not hear anything about their rotten smelling.

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July 17th, 2008, 4:02 pm


62. Qifa Nabki said:

Sami, I agree.

I think it’s important to maintain a moral high ground, as slippery as the terrain may be and as difficult as it is to speak theoretically and speculatively about these kinds of issues in the context of so much violence and suffering.

So let’s make it a bit more real, then. Were the above scenario to hold true — where Quntar admits to the Israeli version of the story — would you regard his homecoming as something worth celebrating?

The reason I am asking is not to put you on the spot, but rather to make a point that gets to Nour’s original question about the lack of discussion on Syria Comment about the prisoner swap. I think that there is real ambivalence in Lebanon about Samir Quntar. Maybe this is because of Israeli propoganda, I have no idea. But he’s hardly a popular “national hero”, the way that the politicians (on both sides!) are making him out to be.

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July 17th, 2008, 5:19 pm


63. Sami D said:

QN, In light of my second paragraph above (reproduced below), the answer is yes. In other words, what’s celebrated is not his killing of innocent civilians, if that were indeed the case, but the symbolism behind it all:

“The political context of the whole Quntar issue is central. The symbolism of resistance to Israel, both in Quntar’s crossing Israeli lines into Israel to “do something” about Israeli belligerence, and in Hezbollah successfully getting Israel to release him, is significant. For the mighty mafia don Israel to capitulate to the demands of few who wouldn’t bow their heads, sends an invaluable message to those whose rights have been trampled upon as well as to oppressors.”

P.S. This conversation belongs more to the next thread “The Prisoner Swap Controversy”

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July 17th, 2008, 5:33 pm


64. Qifa Nabki said:


It seems to me that this logical move that you have put forward threatens our ability to speak meaningfully about right and wrong.

How is celebrating “symbolism”, in that hypothetical scenario, any different from sanctioning an abhorrent crime?

If the Israelis held themselves to this standard (which many do), then plenty of crimes against civilians would be justified in the name of the greater “symbolism”… i.e., the Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them, etc.

I’m just thinking aloud here… could be persuaded otherwise.

PS: Feel free to respond on the other thread.

PPS: Just to make it a little more real… There has been talk of Samir Quntar running for office in the next election, presumably in an alliance with Hizbullah against Jumblatt, although Jumblatt is trying to co-opt him. So, this makes the scenario a bit more difficult. It is one thing to celebrate the symbolism of not bowing one’s head to Israel, etc. It is another thing to vote for a convicted child-killer (in this scenario). Your thoughts?

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July 17th, 2008, 5:53 pm


65. Akbar Palace said:

QN said:

I think that there is real ambivalence in Lebanon about Samir Quntar. Maybe this is because of Israeli propoganda, I have no idea. But he’s hardly a popular “national hero”, the way that the politicians (on both sides!) are making him out to be.


Where in this small, blurry picture can I find the “politicians”? And do the “politicians” really number “tens of thousands”? They don’t look “ambivalent” to me, but what do I know?


That sense of victory was particularly strong at the Hezbollah rally in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Tens of thousands of people were packed into a square carrying the yellow and green flags of Hezbollah, as well as the Lebanese national flag.

For example, the entire operation of the Achille Loro I feel was a combination of utter stupidity and moral degeneracy. I don’t believe Abu Nidal was a hero in that respect.


Don’t be so hard on your terrorist heroes. You may have your Palestinian martyr confused with another. Leon Klinghoffer was killed by Mahmoud Abbas. And please, give Abu Abbas (PBUH) the same courtesy you are giving Samir Quntar – he’s always denied his guilt…


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July 17th, 2008, 6:11 pm


66. Qifa Nabki said:


The rallies are more about Hizbullah than they are about Samir Quntar himself. They are about celebrating the ability of the resistance to achieve its goals vis-a-vis Israel, which — as the party reminds the press — is something unprecedented.

Outside of Hizbullah’s most loyal base and particularly among the other sects (even those parties who are allied to them politically), it’s not as rah-rah, in the same way that there was a lot of ambivalence about Mughniyeh.

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July 17th, 2008, 6:21 pm


67. offended said:

Mashallah, King Abdullah is quite knowledgeable and articulate when it comes to written interviews. I wonder why he doesn’t possess the same eloquence when it comes to press conferences.

when was the last time he had a press conference anyway?

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July 17th, 2008, 6:53 pm


68. Sami D said:


Good response.

QN wrote:

If the Israelis held themselves to this standard (which many do), then plenty of crimes against civilians would be justified in the name of the greater “symbolism”… i.e., the Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them, etc.

Central to symbolism should be the legitimacy of the mission. “Jewish people surviving despite attempts to exterminate them” is a cover for the mission of ethnically cleansing Palestine and cowing the region to submit to US-Israeli hegemony. Quntar’s mission is a response and part of resisting that campaign. Israel’s mission by definition targets civilians; and it continues to do so systematically. In scale, its killing and violations dwarf any acts of resistance by a long shot. Quntar’s killing may have been a one time probably unintended thing, assuming he did it. But indeed it is important to maintain the moral high ground as much as possible, especially when your mission is legitimate, although the dilemma sometimes is that doing so means you accept getting effaced from existence or living forever in squalid camps.

Quntar’s running for office is cashing on the symbolism too far – even if he’s not guilty. If he’s guilty it’s of course even worse, but not worse than all Arab despots or Israeli/US leaders who sport large amounts of blood on their hands. Again, in Quntar’s case, although what should be celebrated is not the killing of civilians, but the mission of resistance, the crossing of conquerors’ lines and the freeing of hostages from their hands, I’d agree that decoupling these from the crime that was involved is not an easy question to resolve.

Again, assuming he did what the Israelis say he did.

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July 17th, 2008, 7:05 pm


69. Enlightened said:


“There is an old Arab Nomad saying “Its hard to see the tree from the Forrest in the Desert”

I want to clarify that my interaction with Karim yesterday, was in no way intended to demean or insult his views. Things are never black and white. In a few short words I was trying to imitate to him that his views on the KIngdom are no mirage if you look closely it is not that deceptive. Maybe I am too much of a cynic when it comes to the Arab world. Maybe I can see its faults to readily- but have no solutions.

QN: Thanks I take off the Tarboush

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July 17th, 2008, 11:02 pm


70. ugarit said:


Saudi media are brimming with pride over the inter-faith dialogue festival in Spain. They are hailing the role of the Saudi king. But they Arab and Western media ignored the actual text of the speech (read haltingly and embarrassingly by the illiterate head of the House of Saud) in which King `Abdullah railed against atheism and atheists. He wanted the believers to unite against the atheists of the world. He apologized for the absence of Bin Laden who was invited but could not attend for security reasons. The conference was well-organized. Sessions were divided along different themes: Wahhabi clerics presided over workshops to train people on anti-Semitism, takfir, intolerance, misogyny, and homophoebia. A workshop on beheading was the highlight of the conference.

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July 19th, 2008, 3:50 am


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