At the Opening of the Second World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies
12 June 2006
(Delivered by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed)
Your Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal,
I am delighted to welcome such a distinguished group of scholars and participants to this second World Congress for Middle East Studies (WOCMES). It is the first time that we in Jordan, and for that matter, that any Arab country hosts this meeting, and we are especially proud that it is the largest gathering of its kind ever held in the Middle East.
You have come to discuss and debate many issues of relevance and importance to this region and beyond. The opportunities and constraints that history, geography and politics present are facets that you will spend the next few days reflecting on. Your conclusions and recommendations will undoubtedly provide important advice and information for those in this region who are determined to pursue, peace, tolerance and development in this region. We in Jordan are, by the Grace of God, leading this constituency of peace. We are working with other partners to ensure that the lessons learnt from the past will provide a blueprint for a better future, for the sake of our own people, and that of the rest of humanity as well.
Above all, you have come to this Blessed Land for the pursuit of knowledge. This noblest of goals has always been of the highest priority to us. Indeed, it is knowledge that is addressed in the very first Revelation of the Holy Quran: "Recite in the name of thy Lord who created. /Created man from a clot. /Recite; and thy Lord is the Most Bountiful. /He who hath taught by the pen. /Taught mankind what they knew not." (Al Alaq, 96:1-5).
The Holy Quran also says: "Say: Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" (Al Zumar, 39:9).
And in yet another verse, the prayer: "Oh Lord, increase me in knowledge!" (Ta Ha, 20:114).
The highest kind of knowledge of course is knowledge of God, His Attributes, and His Ways (Sunan), and the knowledge of the religious sciences. But we also pursue the knowledge of the mind, of reason and of science. It is this kind of knowledge that was the hallmark of classical Islamic civilisation, with its vital contributions to the world in the different disciplines and fields including: mathematics, algebra, astronomy, medicine, law, history, biology, chemistry, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, philosophy, music and sociology.
In these and other areas, expert knowledge helps our societies make informed, successful decisions about policy and resources. Such knowledge is empowering - and essential. This is one reason why, for Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries, education and research must be a strategic priority. Indeed, here in Jordan, building knowledge is a core part of our national reform agenda. Our initiatives include support for educational excellence, academic networking and public-private partnerships to increase access to technology and other resources. We have looked to the Jordanian academic community itself for leadership. We have also opened Jordan's doors to the global intellectual community. Not only have we welcomed WOCMES-2. But ten days from now, Nobel Laureates from around the world will meet again in Petra to work together for positive change.
Building informed, empowered societies is only one way in which the academic community impacts the future of this region. A second, and equally important role, is that of communicators. Among you are university professors and essay writers … and experts whom the world press calls for insight into breaking events. Some of you may sit on boards of NGOs. Others testify before parliaments and provide counsel to governments. No one is in a better position than you to correct false information and stereotypes about the Arab world, no one can better convey the reality of our diverse, complex societies and no one can do a better job of focusing world attention on the interests most important to our future.
On the religious side, Jordan has sought to promote true knowledge of Islam, and knowledge of true Islam. This was the object of the Amman Message of November 2004, and of the International Islamic Conference held in Amman in July 2005. Their content is epitomised by 3 points: (1) the specific recognition of all 8 Mathhabs of Islam, and the definition of who is a Muslim. (2) An effective moratorium on Takfir between Muslims, and (3) the specification of subjective and objective conditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby stemming irresponsible and ignorant edicts in the name of Islam. These ‘3 points of the Amman Message' were ratified unanimously by all the members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Mecca in December 2005. This historical consensus has given new voice all over the world to traditional, orthodox, moderate Islam — the Islam we have always aspired to; the Islam of over 95% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
True knowledge and understanding of Islam and of other religions and cultures is the key to world peace and happiness. True knowledge and understanding of science and of other disciplines is the key to world prosperity and development.
We must thus focus like a laser upon truth and knowledge; we must make the pursuit of truth and knowledge our true pursuit. God says in the Holy Quran: "We raise in degrees whom We will, and above every possessor of knowledge there is one with more knowledge." (Yusuf, 12:76).
Before concluding, I would like to thank and recognise His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal for organising this conference. His Royal Highness has always been a tireless bridge builder and a promoter of knowledge for Jordan, and indeed for the whole world. The convening of this conference here is only one of the many fruits of his great labours.
Thank you all very much.
Peace, God's mercy and blessings be upon you.