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The True Voice of Islam
Last uploaded : Saturday 28th Dec 2002 at 15:34
Contributed by : HM King Abdullah II of Jordan


This week marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims throughout
the world take time to reflect upon the values of our faith: compassion,
goodwill and respect for others. These are core ideals in Islam, the faith
that my family, the Hashemites, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be
upon Him, has served for 40 generations. Our religion calls us to live and
work for justice and to promote tolerance. Daily, we share God's blessing:
Salaam Aleikum --"Peace be upon you."

This is the true voice of Islam, but it is not the voice that Americans
always hear. Instead, they hear the hatred spewed by groups mistakenly called
Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, there is nothing fundamentally Islamic
about these extremists. They are religious totalitarians, in a long line of
extremists of various faiths who seek power by intimidation, violence and

Extremists violently reject the original moderation and openness of Islam --
qualities that made the Muslim world the historical home of diversity and
learning. Nor does their violence constitute "jihad," or holy war. The
Prophet Muhammad tells us that the "greater" holy war is not against others
at all but against one's own failings -- the "war against the ego." Moreover,
in a famous speech, the Prophet's follower and first successor, Abu Bakr,
commanded Muslim soldiers: "Do not betray, do not deceive, do not bludgeon
and maim, do not kill a child, nor a woman, nor an old man . . . do not burn,
do not cut down a fruit tree. . . . If you come across communities who have
consecrated themselves to the [Christian church], leave them."

These words are part of the most basic religious education that Arab and
Muslim schoolchildren receive. I know, because I was one of them. So when
today's terrorists target innocents, they provide direct evidence of their
real agenda: power politics, not religion. In fact, long before so-called
Islamic terrorists began attacking the West, they were targeting fellow
Muslims. The goal was to silence opposition and obliterate the Islam of peace
and dialogue. I carry the name of my great-grandfather, Abdullah I, who was
assassinated by an extremist. In the same attack, my father, then age 15, was
hit by a bullet. He survived, and as King Hussein became a great peacemaker.
He always believed a real leader stands up against the forces of destruction.

Among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims, extremists are, of course, a tiny
minority. For decades, many Muslims thought that because they had nothing to
do with this criminal fringe, they could ignore it. Sept. 11, 2001, changed
that kind of thinking. The idea that anyone would exploit our religion to
sanction the killing of innocents outraged Muslims everywhere. To my
knowledge, every Muslim country, every center of traditional Islamic
scholarship and every major Islamic organization in the United States
condemned the Sept. 11 attacks absolutely. They did so, not out of diplomatic
nicety, not out of fear of the United States, but because our faith demands

Yet we must do even more to make sure the real voice of Islam is heard.

Today Muslims must speak out boldly in defense of a dynamic, moderate Islam
-- an Islam that upholds the sanctity of human life, reaches out to the
oppressed, respects men and women alike, and insists on the fellowship of all
humankind. This is the true Islam of the Prophet, and the Islam that
terrorists seek to destroy.

But this is not a challenge for Muslims alone. All religions have suffered
from the violence and extremism of a few. Even as we begin the 21st century
-- an era of global exchange and exploding knowledge -- God's name is being
exploited to promote rifts and justify conflict.

Differences between faiths become differences between people, and all
humanity suffers.

Together, we share a responsibility to prevent the abuse of religion by those
who would divide us. We have a special duty to combat injustice, which is so
often exploited by extremists. Nowhere is our help needed more than in the
Holy Land, where Palestinians and Israelis alike are crying out for peace,
stability and security. Together we must urge their leaders to hear the
voices of reason and peace, end oppression and occupation, stop the violence
and create a future of hope.

My father and great-grandfather believed that a peaceful, political solution
to the Arab-Israeli conflict would be essential to defeating extremism and
building a world of mutual acceptance and peace. Events show that they were
right. What is needed now is clear to all sides: a fully independent
Palestinian state and an Israel that is integrated, in peace and security,
into its Arab neighborhood. This is why Jordan has strongly supported the
Arab peace initiative that came out of Beirut last March, which commits all
Arab states to a peace agreement with Israel and the establishment of a
Palestinian state and includes collective security guarantees and an agreed
solution to the refugee problem. Jordan is also working with the United
States, Russia, Europe and the United Nations to craft a road map and
timetable for a permanent, sustainable end to the conflict.

It is a terrible truth that for many people, the Holy Land has come to
symbolize extremism and injustice, rather than peace on Earth. But we,
Earth's citizens and leaders, have a chance to defy hatred and defeat terror.
In doing so, we can help this region, so important to all our faiths, lead
the way to a better future for all the world.

Salaam Aleikum.

# # #

The author is King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

JewishComment is grateful to Common Ground News Service for obtaining Copyright for publication.

e-mail: cgnews@sfcg.org
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