At the University of Mississippi
Oxford, Mississippi, US
3 February 2006
I am really truly delighted to join you today. Chancellor, I know that this University has opened its doors to students from every continent. Nine Jordanians are currently students here, and many more through the years. Ole Miss is helping shape a global community of knowledge. That's a critical contribution to the future.
It is a special privilege to be part of this lecture series and thank you very much. I know the Lott Institute is dedicated to leadership for the public good. But let me say, your interest in global affairs is, itself, leadership. Today, no one who cares about security and opportunity at home, can ignore the wider world. There has never been a more important time to be aware of international events; to advance our understanding; and to work together to defend our future.
You know, the whole world saw the devastation that Katrina caused here in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. That's the reality of the media age. But there is another reality, the reality of the global age - not just economic networks and international diplomacy, but a new sense of human connection. People everywhere responded with shock and concern to the destruction and suffering here, just as we all joined together to help Asia after the tsunami, and Southeast Asia after its devastating earthquake.
Last November, when extremists set off bombs in Amman; when they created a bloodbath at a wedding party; when they murdered innocents - people around the world drew together in outrage and concern. And when Jordanians defied the terrorists; when thousands of our citizens marched in solidarity, Muslim and Christian, arm in arm, saying no to terror; when our country's path of progress did not stop - people everywhere supported us. On behalf of all Jordanians, may I say, thank you all.
The bombings in Amman are evidence of the common threat we face. In the few years since this century began, extremists have hit New York, Madrid, London, Riyadh, Sharm El Sheikh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Bali and more. Their aims are clear. They seek to undermine public confidence in open society as well as the rule of law. They feed on discontent, frustration and ignorance. And they are working hard to create chaos and division so they can pursue their goals.
Defence requires more than security measures. We must deflect the extremist efforts to drive us off the path forward. That means keeping our focus on our own priorities. For Jordan, these are very similar to yours: creating more opportunity; growing a job-rich economy so our young people can build a future; creating safe communities for our families and children; Creating and sustaining good government, to protect human rights and give citizens a stake in a peaceful civil society.
These concerns are at the heart of Jordan's national strategy. In recent years we have accelerated reforms across the board to meet our country's needs. The goal is tangible, genuine progress - economic, social, and political.
In Jordan stakeholders from across society have created a reform program that is home-grown; a program that - first and foremost - serves our people. We know that any delay in reform only delays its benefits. That makes the cause more urgent and our determination stronger. Indeed, Jordan has already been recognised for its success in education reform and economic growth. But unfortunately there will always be resistance to change. At times, reform has hit heavy weather. Those who like the status quo find excuses to reject reform; often, they will claim it is being imposed from outside. But Jordan's message is: reform is ours, and our future will not be stopped.
Nor will we be deterred by security threats. Last fall, a new government came into office with a twin mandate: to move our reform program forward while ensuring the safety of our people. As Americans know, public safety is not only an obligation of government, it is also the cornerstone of free and open society. The fact is our countries have a double task, to protect our security and our values. It is a challenge that we can and will meet.
It is impossible to talk about a better future for my country or the region without addressing today's serious conflicts. As long as they continue, the region's focus will be on the past, not the future; on division and stagnation, not growth.
The Palestinian elections last week were an important step in the history of the Palestinian people. We have to respect their choice. For years, the Palestinian people have expressed their desire for peace, and their respect for the legitimacy of international resolutions. Both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, are fed up with violence. They want and deserve a future of hope. So it is now vital for the parties to return rapidly to the negotiation table - and equally vital for the international community to continue their support.
Establishing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, alongside a secure Israel, is the only way to put an end to violence and extremism. This two-state solution was presented in the Arab peace proposal in 2002, and is supported by the international community, and forms the basis of the Roadmap peace process. The next two years are critical. Peace needs our full efforts.
In Iraq, there is a huge responsibility also on the international community to support the Iraqi people as they rebuild their country and restore stability and security. The entire world has a stake in a unified, stable, and prosperous Iraq. Indeed, in the December elections, millions of voters ignored insurgent threats and cast their ballots. We hope a coalition government will be formed, moving the country toward a more inclusive polity. As progress continues, as Iraqi security forces are strengthened, it is vital to maintain the security and stability needed for success.
Another critical arena for peace is the global struggle for tolerance and dialogue. There has been much talk in recent years about a clash of civilisations. The reality is there are powerful bonds among Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "By Him in whose Hand is my life, none of you believes until he [or she] loves for their neighbour, what they love for themselves." The Torah reads: "Love therefore the stranger: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Jesus - peace be upon him - commanded: "love the Lord your God," and "love your neighbour as yourself."
My religion, Islam, is why traditional Muslims decisively reject extremist violence and hatred. The Quran says: "O you who believe, enter into peace entirely," and it admonishes: "Do not transgress; truly God does not love the transgressors."
To oppose false teachings, Jordan released what we call the Amman Message more than a year ago. It is an explanation of the true nature of Islam and a call to peaceful coexistence among all human beings. In July, an international gathering of Muslim scholars carried the Amman Message forward, with a declaration that invalidates extremist fatwas that violate Islamic precepts and justify violence. These key points have been endorsed by the worldwide Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Zero tolerance toward those who promote extremism. This is the view and the voice of traditional Muslims around the world. We will not allow extremists to close the doors to the future for our youth. We will not let them block our path to global peace and progress.
The Amman Message is an all-Islamic initiative, but the road to moderation is not for Muslims alone. All of us have a responsibility to promote the intercultural, interfaith understanding that our future depends on. Across the world, I have met and talked with Christians, Jews, and others to try to energise a new dialogue of respect and trust.
Meeting today's challenges will take all of us, working together. Success will require our energy, our intellect, and most of all, our will. Here at the University of Mississippi, you showed what people can do, together, to overcome the mistakes and divisions of the past and move forward to a new era, a promising era for all.
I am encouraged by the words of Mississippi's own William Faulkner, when he received the Nobel Prize. He believed that in an age of danger, humanity would prevail - not because of technology, not because of power, but because of the "old universal truths" of the human soul: compassion, sacrifice and endurance. He called these traits the glory of our past. God willing, with all of you they will be the glory of our future as well.
Thank you very much.