Doha: The differences among Muslim, Christian and Jewish participants taking part in an inter-religious conference may threaten future dialogue, some participants said as the gathering came to a close yesterday.

The US policies in the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and influence of Western culture on the East overshadowed the discussions of the Fifth Interfaith Conference which was meant to highlight the common spiritual values and foster dialogue between the three monotheistic religions.

Some delegates criticised the debate as it drifted away from the religious topics into regional politics and said they would not attend the conference in the future.

Regional politics outshined the inter-religious dialogue from the onset of the conference, when Ahmad Al Tayeb, president of Al Azhar University, criticised the US and its foreign policies and accused the Western civilisation of representing a menace to other cultures and creeds.

"If only [the US] would use a fraction of the hundred billions used to destroy other countries to help those in need ... the West has put aside religion to secure its interests ... [the West] is imposing its value system on us, an attitude that reminds of the colonial times..."

Anti-Israeli tirades occupied most part of the debate during the open discussion. Shaikh Tayseer Al Tamimi, Supreme Judge of Islamic Sharia Courts in Palestine, said Israel is trying to eliminate the Arab Christian and Islamic heritage in occupied Jerusalem and the city is being subjected to ethnic cleansing. "The Jews are killing innocent people," he told the conference.

Troubled times

David Lazar, a Tel Aviv-based rabbi, said the angry statements witnessed at the conference against the Jews would prevent a meeting of minds. "If there is so much anger, then dialogue is difficult."

Another Jewish delegate from the US, Raquel Ukeles, said misconceptions about the Jews pervaded the Islamic world, where they are considered enemies of God and humanity.

A Jewish representative, who asked not to be named, hinted he may not to attend the conference again. "We have felt like the target of Muslim anger towards the West. In this way we cannot dialogue."

Kuwait-based Bishop Camillo Ballin said Muslim delegates should differentiate between Western secular states and their people, who follow different creeds.

"Christians are not attacking the Muslim world. Western states are secular and their people are in part Christians," he said.