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Official website of His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein
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Speeches
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
At the European-American Press Club
Paris, France
20 March 2006

In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate,

Christian,
Members of the Press,

Thank you very much. I'm delighted to see so many familiar faces. It is a pleasure to be in France once again. My father King Hussein had a special place in his heart for this great country. And I deeply appreciate the warm welcome you have always given me and my family. I'm honoured to have this opportunity to speak here today.

My friends,

This is, quite frankly, a moment of tremendous global unease. The disquiet that many of us feel was captured in a recent headline proclaiming the “end of tolerance.” It was prompted, of course, by the controversy over cartoons denigrating the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.

Much has been said about the cartoon crisis and how it grew. Let me simply say that Muslims around the world - and I am one of them - condemned the denigration of the Prophet. The majority of Muslims also condemn the violence that ensued as alien to the principles of Islam. And I know that many in the West also spoke out, rejecting the vilification of Islam.

The cartoon controversy has exposed the fault lines in our global society. Not so long ago, we saw our world as one of dynamic interconnections and multi-cultural tolerance. But today - even as our cultures and economies interact more than ever before - the talk is of a clash of civilisations. Because, as the age of globalisation has grown, it has not grown in the most significant way; it has not moved beyond tolerance, to creating cultures of respect, rooted in understanding.

There is no clash of civilisations. But we have received a grave warning. And we know, too, that there are those among us who seek to deepen the fault lines. They would capitalise on our lack of understanding about each other, to set off an earthquake of anger, resentment, and fear. This applies not only between East and West, but within eastern and western cultures.

We should not mistake what a clash of civilisations would mean in practical terms. A breakdown in the ties of trade and investment that are vital for economic growth and job opportunity. Barriers to solutions to cross-border problems - health, environment, poverty and more; the erosion of joint security cooperation, which has played such a key role in containing and ending regional conflicts; serious obstacles in the path of international development; a halt to the cultural exchange that enriches life everywhere.

In Jordan, our French friends have long been part of the landscape - at the French Cultural Centre, the Terra Sancta School, L'ecole des Freres, and more. Our scholars work together - in Jordan, in France, and in internet space. French investors have channelled 800 million Euros into key Jordanian enterprises, employing thousands of people. Here in France, thousands work in industries that export goods to Jordan. Across the globe, our peacekeeping forces work side-by-side meeting crises like that in Kosovo. At the diplomatic tables, our countries cooperate on shared goals.

Let me say it plainly: the Middle East needs Europe and Europe needs the Middle East. But the peaceful, integrated global society that we all need is not going to materialise by itself. It needs our active, conscious efforts - to move from cultures of tolerance to cultures of respect; to create true appreciation for each other's beliefs, concerns and goals; to develop a new understanding - recognising our differences, yes, but also the powerful values that bind us.

Bridging the respect gap is going to take a commitment from all of us. In November 2004, we in Jordan released the Amman Message. It is an explanation of the true nature of Islam and a call to peaceful coexistence among all human beings. I believe this initiative provides a program for moving forward: to speak boldly against hatred and ignorance, to work together for the common good, and to avert a clash that will harm us all.

Political and religious leadership has a crucial role. Within the worldwide Muslim community, numerous leaders, at every level of society, have raised their voices to restate Islam's commitment to respect for others. Last July, a gathering of some of the most learned Islamic scholars in the world met to carry the Amman Message forward. Their declaration strikes at the roots of extremism by denying its Islamic legitimacy. Last December, the international Organisation of the Islamic Conference endorsed the principles and recommendations enshrined in the scholars' declaration.

Our regions should also be drawing on our bilateral and multilateral ties - to strengthen understanding of our shared future and to enhance effective cooperation. International institutional frameworks can play a central role in identifying strategies and means. The Barcelona Process clearly identifies cultural cooperation as one of the three basic elements of security and progress. And the Euro-Med Partnership can carry that forward. We need to strengthen such initiatives and expand their reach.

In building respect, an active dialogue among peoples is also important. Our world learned this truth in the healing of racial divisions; we learned it in peace-building among nations; it is central to interfaith harmony as well. My friends, allow me to say that you in the media also play a critical role. As observers and communicators, you are the conduit through which cultures and societies are exposed to each other. Your work puts you in a privileged position to learn - first hand and in depth - about societies, religions, traditions, and values. You contribute directly to global understanding - by avoiding and correcting distortions, by refusing to incite hatred, by offering reasoned criticism and analysis and by portraying the full dimensions of people's lives: their concerns; their triumphs; their insecurities; their hopes. These steps and others are vital as we confront the challenges of our time - to achieve this new century's potential and lift the billions who are still oppressed by poverty and conflict. The entire world has a stake in a stable, forward-looking Iraq. Last month's heinous attacks on sacred places were clearly intended to fan sectarian strife. I have repeatedly urged Iraqis to stand together and stand firm against such provocation. To advance that cause, Jordan has called for a conference in Amman to bring together Iraqi religious leaders to find a way to preserve Iraq's unity and to restore, as soon as possible, its security and stability. The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is also at a critical point. Only a lasting peace will enable people on both sides to build the positive future they need. And the only guarantee for peace is the two-state solution: a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, living alongside a secure Israel. Between today's realities and that positive future, there is an urgent need to build some new bridges. The foundation of peace is, can only be, respect.

My friends,

Progress in peace - whether in the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe or Africa - requires us to resist those who would divide us. So let us make the end of tolerance a beginning - the first step on a new path that leads beyond tolerance, towards the kind of real understanding that heightens our respect for each other.

Diversity is part of the human condition. In the Quran, it is written: God Almighty said: "Mankind! We created you from a pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other."

It is up to us, here and now, to know each other; and build the bonds. God willing, we can do so, and move forward.

Thank you very much.