The inauguration of a new Saudi-backed interreligious dialogue center in the Austrian capital city of Vienna has sparked controversy in the European country and abroad. The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) is set to officially open its doors on Monday amid its critics’ disapproval who say that Riyadh could use the center in order to spread Wahhabism and deflect attention away from human rights violations in the country.
“This dubious Wahhabist center in Vienna” will “only serve Saudi Arabia's political and religious interests abroad, under the guise of dialogue” and the only objective it pursues is to make Riyadh “respectable,” said a Muslim group in Austria.With an annual budget of over 10 million euros ($12.9 million) and a staff of 25, the Vienna center is set up jointly by Saudi Arabia, Spain and Austria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and top representatives of the world's leading religions are scheduled to attend the Monday inauguration at Vienna's Hofburg Palace, while KAICIID has already embarked on an effort to persuade people of its impartiality. Meanwhile, KAICIID secretary-general Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muaammar, a former Saudi deputy education minister, has said that despite Riyadh’s financing of the center for the first three years, there will be “zero politics, zero influence” in it. He further stated that the KAICIID’s decision-making body, comprised of a nine-member board of directors including important representatives of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, will monitor that. MR/AZ