Clash of civilisations and extremists

Op-Ed by His Majesty King Abdullah II
Corriere della Sera
12 December 2005

For five years, I have argued that the global struggle against terrorism cannot be fought by military means alone. It is a moral, intellectual, and social effort as well. To defeat these extremists, we must resist their effort to create a clash of civilisations, which would divide people of good will and weaken progress toward global peace and prosperity. All of us must accept the responsibility to reject hate, ignorance, and violence. This requires an honest and continuing dialogue between the West and the Muslim World.

As part of that effort, today, my wife Rania and I will meet with Pope Benedict XVI. Our discussions carry forward a positive, respectful conversation between our faiths. Indeed, Jordan is deeply engaged in this historic dialogue. Pope John Paul II, who began his Jubilee Pilgrimage in Amman, called us “brothers in Abraham.” Our Islamic country is home to a 2,000-year-old Arab Christian community. Together, our people are as one in contributing to the vitality, peace, and future of our country.

Jordan's constitutional freedom of religion expresses core Arab-Islamic values – a calling to peace; respect for others; the commandment to social justice. This is the voice of Islam as it has been taught and practiced for over a thousand years, and it is the opposite of the ignorant ideology of hate shouted by today's extremist elements. Today, the majority of Muslims are determined to reclaim their historic faith. The “Amman Message,” issued last November, restates Islam's teachings regarding humility before God, the equal dignity of all people, compassion, and pluralism; and it denounces extremism and terrorism as deviations from Islam and transgressions against God.

This effort and others seek to unite the voices of moderation, who are the vast majority of Muslims, here in Italy, in Jordan, and all over the world. Leading Muslim clerics in Europe and the Middle East have decisively condemned terror, expressing the duty of Muslims to act to protect the innocent. In July, Jordan hosted the first International Islamic Conference. It welcomed more than 170 scholars and experts, Sunni and Shia, from more than 40 countries, including Europe. Delegates affirmed the core values expressed in the Amman Message, and took measures to end abuses of our faith.

Islam does not isolate its believers behind hate and division. It encourages our people to partner with all humanity in global progress and peace. Jordan has made that commitment. Our country has played a leading role in regional peace efforts, and we are pleased that Italy has supported our constructive role. Today, with Italian support through the Quartet and G-8, a roadmap for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict exists. Based on the breakthrough peace initiatives by Arab nations at the Beirut Summit of 2002, the roadmap provides for a comprehensive, two-state solution, the only kind of peace that can endure: a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestine; security guarantees for Israel; and a process that leads to a comprehensive settlement that addresses the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. We must not allow the enemies of peace to stop this critical effort.

Jordan and Italy are also working together for other regional goals. Both our nations are committed to security and normalisation for Iraq, and in that effort, Jordanians have deeply felt your nation's noble sacrifices. We are also cooperating in regional reform and development. It is critical to global peace that the people of the Middle East, especially our young people, can share in this century's promise of freedom and prosperity. To this end, Jordan has worked to establish an unprecedented model for regional reform and progress. We are making structural changes to build democratic political life, entrench human rights, and provide access to opportunity at every level of society. In the economy, we have encouraged innovation, and strengthened the educational and social infrastructure to promote development and growth. Italy has been a priority trading partner, and we are grateful for your country's sustained support for development in our country and region. Italy has also played a tremendously important role in the UN and the G-8, supporting international assistance and debt relief for middle-income countries, like Jordan, which are proving their will to move forward.

To achieve the positive global change that both our nations want, we must work together. The partnership between Jordan and Italy reflects a friendship of shared ideals as well as a common future. I believe that working together, we can help achieve the peace and security that our nations, and all people, need and deserve.