Grand mufti calls for acceptance of differing viewpoints

July 7, 2009

Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh stressed the importance of accepting differing viewpoints, rather than forcing a single perspective on society, Arab News reported Sunday.

Speaking at the opening of the Certified Trainers Forum for Promoting Dialogue July 4, Sheikh Al-Asheikh said Islamic scholars are "willing to answer questions, listen to advice, and discuss and debate for the benefit of people." He added that the idea is to "cooperate by accepting other viewpoints and not enforcing one point of view for the sake of the unity of society.”

Al-Asheikh asserted that dialogue can have a positive effect on national cohesion. “A person engaging in dialogue, with all his intellectual and physical power, must work on strengthening society, not on destroying it,” the daily reported, adding that it should be based on the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. However, Al-Asheikh warned, dialogue should be pursued in good faith and not used to create chaos and confusion in society.

During his address, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Khojah discussed the “role of the media in promoting a culture of dialogue,” noting that there are verses in the Qur’an that promote and urge dialogue. “Women are given such rights in the Qur’an,” he added. Al-Khojah also pointed to the role that the new electronic media is playing in enhancing communication, revealing that steps are being taken toward establishing an independent channel dedicated to dialogue.

The three-day forum was organized by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) and consists of 10 sessions on various topics, including the importance of mosques in promoting dialogue and the role of universities and the ministries of education and information in promoting dialogue.

KACND aims to promote a culture of dialogue, tolerance and moderation as well as gain and implement new means of communication between the center and different strata of society, according to its Vice Secretary-General, Fahd Al-Sultan.