The Catholic University of America

"Traditional Islam: The Path to Peace"
Address by King Abdullah II of Jordan
CUA Columbus School of Law
Sept. 13, 2005

Bismillah ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

As-Salaamu 'alaykum
May Peace be with you.

Cardinal McCarrrick, Father O'Connell, Dean Miles, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am truly grateful for your warm welcome. Catholic University is notable for being a home to both reason and faith - a center of intellectual life and spiritual purpose. That enterprise has included a respectful dialogue among people of different religions. As a Muslim, I am proud to take part.

We meet at a critical time in human history. Fifteen years ago, when the Cold War ended, some people said that history had ended; that all the important issues had been resolved. Today, we know better. And we stand at a new turning point. In one direction, is an open world, one that can deliver a better life and freedom to billions of people. Against this vision, is global division - a world of barriers and stagnation - especially, a world of religious tension as well as hostility.

We have seen the evil that such division can cause. The Bosnian conflict, and its genocide of 300,000 Muslims - crimes the international courts are still pursuing. The Chechen conflict and its horrors. An international campaign of terrorism, by fringe Muslim elements. Four years ago this month, 9-11. This past July, the attacks in London and in Egypt. Last month, in Jordan. Continuing conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. And during all this time, simmering conflict in Palestine.

Governments in both the West and the Islamic World have insisted, repeatedly, that the West and Islam are not at war. And responsible religious leaders have denounced hatred and violence. In the Middle East, in Europe, and here in the United States, senior Muslim clerics have spoken out, authoritatively, against terror. Yesterday, Rania and I were honored to meet with His Holiness Pope Benedict the Sixteenth. He spoke of his respect for the Muslim people, and he re‑affirmed the Church's commitment to dialogue and peace.

But there are those who think otherwise - who believe that there is, or will be, a "clash of civilizations." Indeed, opinion polls tell us that this idea, at some level, is held by far too many people in both Western and Muslim countries. What is worse, there are those who want conflict to occur, and are actively working to that end.

For all our sakes, for our common future, we must turn the world's footsteps away from such a path. We need dialogue; a dialogue of deeds, as well as words. That means re-affirming our common interests and values - making sure that all people, especially young people, can share in the great promise of this century - and giving a new voice to the quiet majority: the people of good will across the world.

In this effort, I know I am joined by President Bush and many other Western and Islamic leaders.

And those of us who believe in the future of the Middle East are strongly committed to dialogue and peace. These values have deep roots in Arab-Islamic civilization ­- and today, they are driving a regional renaissance, that can give the Middle East the hope it needs. I am proud that Jordan has taken the lead in that effort, as well as engaging in our own, serious process of reform and development.

Another critical effort is faith-based action. History shows that at one time or another, all religions have faced extremists who abuse the power of faith. But moral leadership cannot be hijacked. Today, traditional, moderate, orthodox Muslims are reclaiming our Islam - Islam, as it has been taught and practiced for over a thousand years: a religion of tolerance, wisdom, and charity.

To this end, in November of 2004, we in Jordan launched what has come to be known as the Amman Message. It carefully articulates Islam's essential social values: compassion; respect for others; tolerance and acceptance, and freedom of religion. And it rejects Muslim isolation from the global movement of human society.

This past July, there was a major international conference in Jordan. It brought together scholars from 45 nations. They represented all eight traditional schools of Islamic thought. And together, they affirmed Islam's core values, expressed in the Amman Message. They issued a joint statement of accord, to help end abuses of our faith. For instance, they agreed that religious edicts cannot be issued by people lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge (like Bin Laden and Zarqawi). And they agreed that no one can call another Muslim an apostate - as the extremists do to those who disagree with them.

The Amman Message is an all-Islamic initiative. It currently involves opinion-makers from across the Islamic world. God willing, it will expand to engage the popular preachers and grass-roots activists - what is called the "Muslim street." We intend to revisit education and media roles as well. The ultimate goal is to take back our religion from the vocal, violent, and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam over the last hundred years. They do not speak for Islam any more than a Christian terrorist speaks for Christianity. And the real voices of our faiths will be, must be, heard.

My friends,
The road of moderation, and respect for others, is not one for Muslims alone. All humanity today, needs to meet this challenge. That means more than just 'tolerating' each other; it means real acceptance, based on human equality and fellowship.

Jordan is an Islamic country - and home to a historic Christian community. All Jordanians participate in creating our nation and our future. I believe that we have found, by the Grace of God, a larger community of shared respect. It is based on the deepest teachings of our religions, teachings found in the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike: belief in and devotion to the One God … and love for our fellow human beings.

In the Holy Bible, Jesus taught:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

Likewise, in the Qur'an, it is written: Say: O ye people of the Scripture, come to a common word between us, that we will not worship other than God and not associate anything with Him…. It has never been more important that we understand - and live by - the "common word" of our faiths.

It is a bond that can unite us in mutual respect … and shield us against religious incitement. Such an approach is vital to global peace. Dogmatic conflicts create walls of mistrust. But if we break down those barriers, if we recognize our deepest shared values, we open the way to a better future. There are hurdles, certainly, but they are political, and political problems can be resolved by pragmatic solutions among people of good will.

My Friends, Jordanians were honored that His Holiness John Paul II began his Jubilee Pilgrimage in Amman. He spoke to me and millions of listening Arabs, about his great esteem for the Muslim people, as believers in the One God. One year later, he became the first Pope to enter a Mosque. He helped lead a historic Muslim-Christian prayer gathering - and urged a continuing 'partnership for the good of the human family'.

We were tragically reminded of this by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. We are all in God's hands. And together, we are called to a common duty - to help, to share, to comfort and heal - to build a better future for every person on our earth.

In the Psalms, we read: Seek peace and pursue it. Jesus taught: Blessed are the peacemakers. The Holy Qur'an tells us: And God summoneth to the abode of Peace, and guideth whom He will to the way of righteousness. Join me now in helping to keep to the path of peace.

Thank you very much.
As-Salaamu 'Alaykum.