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Liberal Muslim group slams Saudi centre

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The entrance to the King Abdullah centre. Photo: KAICIID
17:59 CET+01:00
A liberal Muslim group in Austria has called on the Austrian authorities to keep a watchful eye on what is going on at a Saudi-financed religious dialogue centre in Vienna, which it alleges is being infiltrated by radical Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members.

Amer Albayati, president of the Initiative Liberaler Muslime Österreich (ILMÖ), said that up to 100 people at the controversial King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) are operating under the “protective mantle of diplomatic immunity” and that the organization has become “a new entry point for radical Islamists.”

Albayati said that Ibrahim El-Zayat, the co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish Leadership Council (launched by KAICIID), has been linked in media reports to the controversial Muslim Brotherhood organization.

He went on to say that "interreligious dialogue is only a platitude, and that is why we are calling for this unacceptable and dubious centre to be closed down”.

KAICIID rejected the allegations, calling them “absurd and wrong”. In a statement, spokesman Peter Kaiser said that the centre's mission is “to promote dialogue between different religions” and that all its board members are appointed according to international and Austrian law and that none of them have diplomatic immunity. He added that the centre “in no way supports religious ideologies”.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow and a member of the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council called KAICIID “a key partner in the promotion of dialogue between religions in general and one that supports us in our work to promote Jewish-Muslim dialogue in Europe. Given the global problem of extremism, KAICIID plays an important role as a voice of reason and tolerance."

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Earlier this year the centre was strongly criticized for failing to condemn the public flogging of a Saudi blogger and generally remaining silent on human rights issues.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann called for the government to stop supporting the centre but Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz warned that this would violate international treaties and damage Vienna's reputation as a location for international organizations.

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