At Chulalongkorn University
15 December 2005
Thank you very much for your kind words. I am proud to accept this honour, on behalf of all Jordanians.
It is a special privilege for me to be here, at Thailand's oldest university – a home to high ideals in knowledge and ethics. From its earliest days, your university has recognised that great education rests on moral principles as well as intellectual achievement. This was well illustrated almost a year ago in the aftermath of the tsunami tragedy. As we near the first anniversary of that terrible event, allow me to tell you how deeply Jordanians shared Thailand's shock and grief, and how much we have admired your courage and resilience. I know that members of this university helped provide emergency relief, offered your expertise to the recovery process and are making scientific advances that will create safeguards for the future. Your efforts have helped countless people from every faith and walk of life. Such a spirit is an example for the world.
Today I have the honour to speak to you about the mutual bonds of our ethical heritage – bonds that can help us confront the dangers and divisions of this century. Our peoples share a mutual respect for peace, justice and compassion. In the Quran, God says: My mercy encompasses all things (7:156). The Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings be upon him – said: The All-Merciful is merciful to those who are merciful. Have mercy upon those on earth, He who is in heaven will be merciful unto you.
Islam reviles aggression against innocents of any land or religion. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, told us: By Him in whose Hand is my life, none of you believes until he [or she] loves for their brother, what they love for themselves. And he ordained (peace be upon him): There is no harm, and no requiting harm in Islam.
These teachings are the very opposite of the hatred that drives extremists of any faith. Their ideology and methods transgress the foundational principles of Islamic law. For, no matter what the grievance, the Quran commands: Let not the hatred of others make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just! It is closer to piety. (5:8)
Indeed, anyone who claims that Islam is founded upon a violent ideology must answer to the innocent Muslims – men, women and children – who have been killed because they did not ascribe to the corrupt ideology of a deviant minority. The reality is that Muslims were the very first to be targeted by extremists seeking to silence opposition.
Yet, around the world, Muslims have resisted. After the Amman bombings last month, Jordanians from all walks of life marched together to defy terror and assert Islam's true values. I know we are joined by more than 1.2 billion traditional Muslims throughout the world, who reject extremism and live in tolerance and peace. Theirs is the true, the traditional, voice of Islam.
To help make that voice heard, Jordan released the Amman Message in November 2004. This short declaration is addressed to Muslims and to all of humanity. It is an explanation of the true nature of Islam and a call to peaceful coexistence among all human beings. We followed this up in July, with a conference attended by over 180 Muslim scholars from 45 countries, representing all eight traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence and supported by 20 fatwas from the world's leading Islamic authorities.
The conference resulted in a joint accord to help end abuses of our faith. The scholars reaffirmed the validity of all eight schools of Islamic Jurisprudence and of Sufi and Ash'ari thought. Their statement condemned takfir, the extremist practice of labelling others as unbelievers, which extremists use to justify acts of violence. And it specified the absolute conditions for issuing legitimate fatwas. Muslims from every branch of Islam, in every land, can now assert without doubt or hesitation, that a fatwa calling for the killing of innocent civilians – Muslim or non-Muslim – violates the most fundamental principles of Islam. Only a few days ago at Jordan's behest, these principles were unanimously adopted at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference held in Mecca by all Muslim countries.
The Islamic reaffirmation is a powerful weapon against extremism. It exposes the false promises and empty ideology of radical extremists, and it pulls young Muslims towards the centre of our faith – a faith that empowers them to be full partners in the progress of humanity in our age.
Another weapon against extremism is worldwide dialogue and cooperation, because extremists target more than people and property; they target ideas. Nothing serves their interests more than a “clash of civilisations” that ends global cooperation and brotherhood. Their aim is to sow mistrust and division. They do not seek to resolve tensions between people of different faiths – they seek to increase them.
Yet extremists do not represent Islam or the Muslim world. Indeed, this is the lesson from the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. That act was condemned by Muslims everywhere. We remember that for a thousand years and more, these great statues stood in a Muslim land. The statues were not just a world cultural treasure, but a testament to the tolerance of traditional Islam. And their destruction was evidence, once again, of how extremists violate all that is sacred to Muslims and others.
The reality is that extremism is rejected by traditional Muslims, in Jordan, in Thailand, and around the world. For Muslims are commanded to seek peace at every turn. The Quran commands us: If they incline unto peace, then incline unto it, and trust in God. (8:61).
True traditional Islam can help our world deal with this century's most critical issues, especially where there is tension between people of different faiths. Such tensions cannot be healed by emphasising differences, opposing Islam or suppressing Muslims. Here in Thailand, Muslims have a long history as an important part of civilisation and society. They deserve, as all Thais deserve, that their rights be honoured and their persons be respected.
No one should allow a tiny minority of extremists to divide the people of Thailand. Non-Muslim Thais should know that their traditional Muslim neighbours – the vast majority – are the staunchest allies of good citizenship, coexistence and peace. In turn, Thai Muslims should be assured that Thailand will fully appreciate their good citizenship, and their determination to resolve issues peacefully.
Healing will come by recognising what people hold in common and building upon the shared commitment to peace and justice. These values are the strongest foundation for solving disagreements, providing a platform upon which people of different faiths can work together, toward a future in which all find security, opportunity and peace.
Together, then, let us go forward: to create the peace and prosperity that our citizens need, to advance understanding and reject intolerance for the benefit of all, and together, in partnership, to bring a new era of hope.
Thank you very much.