Muslim, Christian, Jewish leaders condemn Islamic State at interfaith conference

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Senior Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders condemned violence by extremist militants such as Islamic State (formerly ISIL) at a Saudi-backed conference on Wednesday in Vienna, Austria, Reuters reported.

The inter-faith event, aimed at promoting tolerance and diversity, called for countering the messages of militants on social media used to lure recruits, and for leadership courses in schools, houses of worship and the broader community.

“Some organizations that are affiliated with Islam are perpetrating some actions in the name of jihad. This is not Islam at all,” said Abdullah bin Abdulmuhsen Al-Turki, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

“This is why we wish to deplore and strongly condemn this behavior, which we see as against Islam,” he told an audience including the Muslim grand muftis of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan; top representatives of several churches; Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee; and diplomats.

Islamic State has caused international alarm by capturing large expanses of Iraq and Syria, declaring a Sunni “caliphate” straddling their borders and massacring those they deem apostates and infidel, like Shia Muslims and Christians.

Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Nizar bin Obaid Madani, also decried the emergence of factions in the Middle East “that use terrorism and violence in the name of religion”.

“They are wreaking havoc. They are killing and destroying everything. Those who have embraced terrorism unfortunately attribute everything they do, every oppression they practice, to Islam. Islam has nothing to do with them,” he said.

The conference was organised by the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialog (KAICIID), which is sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

KAICIID has come under intense scrutiny in Austria since it opened in 2012 to fanfare. Critics say the center has done little to promote religious dialog at a time when 150 jihadis have left Austria to fight in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia itself enforces a strict Islamic code and bans non-Muslim religious practice. But as the birthplace of Islam and a champion of conservative Sunni doctrine, the country is an important ally for Western countries battling the Islamic State and a symbolic target for the militant group itself.