Upon Receiving the Golden Medal of Athens Award
21 December 2005
Thank you, and thank you all. I am honoured to receive the Golden Medal of Athens. To me, it is a symbol of all that your historic city has given our world – the ideals of good governance, the growth of knowledge, partnership with others, and of the whole immeasurable legacy that Greece has given – and continues to give – to the world.
So it is with great pride that I accept this honour on behalf of all Jordanians. By doing so together we also celebrate the special friendship and unique historical bonds between the people of Greece and Jordan. And the agreements we sign today will, I hope, bring us even closer in the years ahead.
For more than six thousand years, the ideas, knowledge and values of our two regions and peoples have shaped the entire world, and continue to do so in almost every way. My home, the Levant, gave the world, among other things, High Civilisation, literacy, law, agriculture, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam - to which the majority of people in the world belong today. Greece gave the world, among other things, philosophy, classical culture, drama, the empirical sciences – including empirical medicine – geometry, democracy, and the ideal of individual freedom. Thus, most of humanity's knowledge, culture, heritage, and even faith come from us together, the Levant and Greece.
Today, our two countries may seem small, but we continue to be the guardians of the best of the world's heritage. One way we do this, together, is by protecting the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the oldest church in the world, and the Church of the Holy Land. Another way is by maintaining a respectful dialogue between Christianity and Islam, the two largest religions in the world.
Both Islam and Christianity teach belief in and devotion to, One God, and love for our fellow human beings. Jesus – peace be upon him – commanded us to love the Lord your God, and to love your neighbour. So too, the Prophet Muhammad – 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.
These teachings are at the heart of Jordan's commitment to peace, tolerance and justice. They are also at the heart of Jordan's traditional Islamic reaffirmation. Reaffirming traditional Islam consolidates the middle ground of our religion, to which more than 1.2 billion people belong. And it strikes at the very roots of extremism, by exposing the falsity of extremist ideologies and by rejecting extremist hatred and violence as profound distortions of Islam.
Our initiative was demonstrated last month, after the Amman bombings, when Jordanians from all walks of life marched together to defy terror and assert Islam's true values. But it started much earlier. Just over a year ago, when we released the Amman Message – an explanation of the true nature of Islam and a call to peaceful coexistence among all nations. Then, last July, a conference in Amman brought together over 180 Muslim scholars from 45 countries. They represented all eight traditional schools of Islamic Jurisprudence from the three main branches of Islam – Sunni, Shi'i and Ibadhi. The conference was supported by 20 fatwas from the world's leading Islamic authorities.
The scholars signed a joint statement of accord that affirms the validity of all eight schools of jurisprudence and of traditional Islamic creeds and practices. It condemned takfir, a practice of labelling others as unbelievers, in order to justify wanton acts of violence upon them. Last, it specified the conditions for issuing legitimate fatwas, thereby demonstrating that extremist fatwas justifying violence are in clear violation of Islam's teachings. Two weeks ago, at Jordan's initiative, the three components of this declaration were unanimously endorsed by the International Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
The Islamic reaffirmation is a Muslim initiative. But moderation and respect for others is not a path for Muslims alone. We must all work for understanding, tolerance and dialogue. This is the message of our Euro-Med partnership, where Greece has played such an important role. And it is our common responsibility as the historical shapers of our world.
The Greek people have another central role to play, in helping to build bridges between peoples and regions and in supporting peace: a lasting, just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, with two states, a sovereign, viable Palestine and a secure Israel; a stable, unified Iraq with a rebuilt economy and an inclusive civil society.
The Greek people can also support and encourage regional reforms that advance development and stability and provide the opportunities that our young people urgently need. Jordan is leading the way in the Middle East with a comprehensive program of political, economic and social reforms. Public and private sector leaders were directly involved in developing our new National Agenda, aimed at guiding government actions over the next 10 years. We are getting results and we are staying the course. I invite you to come to Amman and experience both the modern Jordan and its ancient heritage, including that of its Hellenistic period.Allow me also, at this special time, to wish all of you a happy Christmas holiday.
Thank you very much.