His Majesty King Abdullah II Addresses World Economic Forum In New York

03 February 2002

His Majesty King Abdullah II on Sunday delivered a special message to the Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York City.

Full Speech:

Professor Schwab,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your kind welcome. Rania and I deeply appreciate the chance to be part of a most important annual meeting.

Professor, it is hard to exaggerate all that has occurred since these annual meetings began. When you launched the World Economic Forum, in 1971, ours was a bi-polar world; world trade was a fraction of today's volume; no one had ever heard of a personal computer, of cellular phones, or of the Euro. The OPEC oil embargo was two years away. The Internet was two decades away. If we needed a pocket calculator, we reached for a slide rule. How things have changed.

But some things have not changed. The urgent needs of the world's poor; the evils of terrorism; the threat of weapons of mass destruction; the occupation of Palestine, and all the resulting tensions, these problems are still with us, still serious.

Never has it been, however, more important to work together; to exchange ideas; to understand each other better; and to cooperate in finding solutions to the problems we share. That is the unique gift of meetings like this one, where leaders from every sphere can work together to bridge the world's divides. And no-where is it more appropriate to meet than here, in this great city, still healing the wounds of last September.

Today, New York City has become a symbol of determination – the determination to uphold peace and civility, and to defeat terror and anarchy. That effort demands we tear off the mask of terrorism. For many years, we have heard terrorists exploit human aspirations. They have claimed to represent various religious and political causes. They have pretended to speak for the poor and displaced. But their underlying goal has had nothing to do with justice, freedom, or equality. They seek power, pure and simple, achieved through violence and destruction. And they thrive on despair, cynicism, and division.

Here, in this city of so much courage, let us resolve, once and for all, to reject the claims of terror. We must not allow opportunists to provoke a clash between civilisations. Above all, we must firmly reject their false claim, that humanity can be slaughtered in the name of the One God, the Merciful and the Compassionate.

An unintended consequence of the terror of last September was to encourage a much-needed debate in the Muslim world. That anyone dared to exploit our religion to sanction the killing of innocents provoked the real voice of Islam to be heard. That voice is clear. Islam can never sanction the killing of innocent civilians. Far from condoning terror and injustice, Islam is a religion of peace, forgiveness and acceptance – a faith that upholds, and sanctifies, human life. In the Holy Quran, Allah says:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
يا أيها الناس إنا خلقناكم من ذكر وأنثى وجعلناكم شعوبا وقبائل لتعارفوا
"O, Mankind ! We created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other."
صدق الله العظيم

To those who choose to portray Islam as a static theology, intent on looking backwards, the Quran and Sayings of the Prophet attest to the contrary. Muslim faith is a dynamic process of discourse and interpretation, based on reason, keen in the pursuit of knowledge, and dedicated to excellence. These values from our theology have enabled Muslims to be pioneers in mathematics, medicine, astronomy and other sciences, and to set world standards for critical history and scholarship. In social terms, the pillars of Islam prescribe humility, teach tolerance, and respect diversity.

Islamic civil society is built on the concept of public right and responsibility. Participation in the political system is guaranteed through the Shura principle. As such, Islamic principles are fully consistent with democratic rights and political freedom. This is the only Islam that we know and the only Islam there is.

And let me add, this is not a new view of Islam. Millions of faithful Muslims understand it. Almost a year and a half ago, speaking before the Islamic Conference, I noted that for fourteen centuries, Muslims have interacted positively with other cultures. They have realised that this interaction does not represent a threat to their principles and fundamental beliefs. On behalf of millions, I rejected terrorism and extremism, firmly and publicly stating that they do not in any way represent Islam or relate to it.

So, the question might be asked, from what does extremism arise? As in all matters that involve religion, politics, and social behaviour, there is no easy answer. Today's Muslim population is mostly young. Too many live in poor environments that steal hope and breed despair. The lack of reforms, and the burning injustice of Palestine, have come to represent the world's neglect. These and other frustrations have found expression in religious terms.

For example, Western support for autocratic rule in the Muslim world is perceived as a conspiracy against Islam itself. And the continuing conflict fuels radicalism even more.

Can we change this? I believe we can. But to do so, countries of the Muslim world must make new choices for the future. That means placing sustainable growth, economic strength, and social welfare at the top of national agendas – and accompanying these with solid political and democratic reforms.

Left on their own, many in the developing world may have difficulty making the choice for change. They need help, particularly from the West. The international community can contribute to a more tolerant environment by providing financial assistance to bolster economic and social reform. Recently, The World Bank President James Wolfensohn put a face on the responsibility to act. Mobilising assistance for Afghanistan, he reminded the international community that if it wants peace, it must help that country get back on its feet. He argued, and I quote, "Afghans must be empowered to reclaim their lives, children must be able to re-enter classrooms, and women must have access to well-stocked health clinics."

Allow me to suggest that the same could be said on behalf of many in the Muslim world. For them, and for our future, it is vital for the international community to assist the process of reform.

Part of that effort is, must be, a just resolution of a central conflict – one that has put the brakes on progress in the Middle East, and has fed extremism throughout the world. The international community must address itself to solve, without delay, the Arab-Israeli conflict. The present situation in the Palestinian areas is very dangerous, and requires immediate international intervention to help steer the parties from the brink. Promoting moderation and implementing reform cannot succeed while this conflict continues. Peace requires a comprehensive, lasting solution that provides justice and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike. There is a clear solution to the conflict: an end to the occupation; a viable and secure Palestinian state on all territories occupied in 1967; the return of the Golan Heights and the remaining occupied Lebanese territories; a shared Jerusalem; a fair solution to the refugee issue; and a guarantee to Israel's security by all.

The parameters of the solution are there. Let us help the parties achieve them.

My friends,
You at the World Economic Forum understand more than others that the human community is indivisible. We know that events in one region have a profound impact on nations near and far. But let us remember that this applies not only to despair and violence, but to goodwill, shared responsibility and mutual respect. In the aftermath of September 11, Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of a new moral order, one that can emerge as a monument of lasting good.

I believe we must think in terms of a new global blueprint – one that will stimulate growth in the least developed countries, and narrow the gap between rich and poor. And as we look to a world that works together, in mutual respect, international leaders must take care to do the same. The modern world has often treated economic development as something that can be pursued separately from social and human concerns. But more and more, we are seeing that a healthy global economy is one that honours the cultures, faith, and heritage of all its participants. Globalisation does not mean that one size fits all. Globalisation means enabling every nation to make use of its strengths and fulfil its potential. In the global human community, there is no magnetic centre. Every community, every country, proudly stands as an integral part of the whole.

Today, leaders of the international community, no less than leaders of nations, must work to make technological and economic progress serve the basic human needs of men and women, their families and communities. This is the greatest answer to those who would destroy and separate us. And this is the spirit of what we are trying to do in Jordan.

Jordan enters the new century, as a model Muslim civil society. It is a modern state, where freedom of speech and expression are rights, and where political pluralism and democratic principles are realities, that find true expression in direct Parliamentary elections.

At Davos two years ago, I spoke of my vision for Jordan: a small country, we would harness the talents of our people to realise big ideas. We still have much to do but we are well on our way.

Our internal political strength, social cohesion, and economic success have allowed us to weather the adverse regional climate.

Elections will be held this fall, under a new law that guarantees universal suffrage and fair representation of all Jordanians.

Our courts of law have undergone intensive upgrading, designed to modernise the legal system and ensure its fairness and independence.

Government is more efficient and responsive.

The success of the reform process is being measured, through the improvement of services in health and education. Ideas of civil service reform have been turned into action plans for the early adoption of electronic government.

Economic growth is being achieved through the promotion of enterprise and free trade.

State control of utilities and industries is giving way to private ownership, management and operation.

Initiatives conceived to attract private capital and know-how are now enshrined in laws.

The ICT sector, promoted through past deliberations at the World Economic Forum, has witnessed a leap in investments and exports.

We are streamlining regulatory procedures and providing incentives to give the private sector the tools it needs to succeed. It has now been empowered to create a solid partnership with the public sector.

New graduates of our universities are in command of computer skills and at least one foreign language. Knowledge acquisition is no longer the privilege of the few, but an opportunity available to many, in remote centres of excellence.

English, the universal IT language is part of the curriculum from grade one, and computer education from grade two.

These are important changes, but they do not change our essence. Indeed, they carry forward Jordan's deepest values. Our model is one of a state governed by a deep social contract that clarifies rights and responsibilities as it protects freedom and diversity. It reconciles the values of Islamic theology and governance with the modern outlook of liberal thinking. In fact, the Islamic Arab Hashemite heritage of the Prophet Mohammed that I am proud to belong to, advocates progress, prosperity and peace.

It derives its legitimacy from the teachings of the Holy Quran. It sustains its strength through an open and positive dialogue with other faiths and cultures. It articulates its vision through partnership with its neighbours and beyond. It plans for the future through the adoption of knowledge and the development of skills. Its success provides an example for a new approach and a new beginning.

For those who want to re-build the bridges across continents, let this be our monument of lasting good. Let it be a testament to those who lost their lives in this place. Let it be the victory of humanity.

Thank you very much.