Saudi King Salman hosts rabbi in official residence for first time

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Rabbi David Rosen, board member of the KAICIID inter-religious dialogue group, in a meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud other KAICIID board members (photo credit: COURTESY KAICIID)

King tells group of leaders from five religions that Saudi Arabia is returning to the era of Islamic openness of earlier ages.

By JEREMY SHARON   FEBRUARY 24, 2020 21:41

For the first time ever, the King of Saudi Arabia has met with and hosted a rabbi in his formal residence during an annual meeting of the KAICIID inter-religious dialogue organization’s last week.Rabbi David Rosen, a leading figure in interfaith cooperation, is one of the eight members of the KAICIID board of governors representing the Jewish faith, and was one of those hosted by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud at his royal palace in Riyadh last Thursday.Read More Related Articles

Rosen is also an Israeli citizen living in Israel, making his meeting with the king even more remarkable.Rosen was one of seven of the board members who met with King Salman, including KAICIID’s representatives for Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

According to Rosen, King Salman talked about the changes which Saudi Arabia is undergoing of late and asserted that the Islamic kingdom was adopting a more open form of Islam than that which it has observed in recent decades.Rosen said that the king argued that political Islam and extreme nationalism had forced the country into a more protective and reactive position in regard to its attitude to the Islamic faith,   and that Saudi Arabia had been unduly influenced by extremist ideologies.

King Salman said that the country was now going about the process of restoring it culture to that of its original, enlightened Islamic orientation, a part of which was an openness to other religions, Rosen said.

“He invoked the historical and authentic character of Islam as the openness of Islam that was shut down in recent times by political factors,” said the rabbi.“My visit does not create a new reality, but reflects a new reality, and it is testimony to a new openness in Saudi Arabia,” Rosen told The Jerusalem Post.

The rabbi said that this new so-called openness was “relative,” given that the country still has far different values than the West on issues such as the status of women and other matters, but insisted that Saudi Arabia had undergone a “dramatic transformation,” compared to where it has been just a few years ago.

Rosen described King Salman’s description of how Saudi Arabia had adopted the more fundamentalist and extremist form of Islam that was prevalent in the country until recently as “revisionist history,” but said that “We don’t have to accept his historical analysis in order to accept his contemporary approach.”

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