Not as moderator of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, nor as a Muslim directly descended from the Prophet Mohammad, but as a member of our common human family, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones in the heinous attacks in New York and other cities of the United States of America on Sept. 11, 2001. I further extend my deepest sympathy to the people of the United States of America, to all concerned humanity and to President George W. Bush.
The world’s faithful stand aghast at the tragedy that has befallen ordinary people of all nations and faiths who live within the United States, and I condemn unequivocally this outrage against humanity.
Respecting the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of all great faiths. Such acts of extreme violence, in which innocent men, women and children are both the targets and the pawns, are totally unjustifiable. No religious tradition can or will tolerate such behaviour and all will loudly condemn it.
Terrorism is by nature indiscriminate, killing civilians of all ages, colours and persuasions; it intimidates individuals and communities the world over; its very existence depends upon its ability to perpetuate fear; it is perhaps the most dreadful tool used to express violence.
The proliferation of terrorist cells operating throughout the world challenges us all, particularly governments, which will have to address this provocation at all levels in the 21st century. A piecemeal approach will not do. Nor will a reaction based upon conjecture as to whom might be responsible. In times like these, it is easy to act immediately and to think things through only once irrevocable decisions have been made.
I therefore urge the United States and the international community to exercise restraint in the face of this daunting challenge. And I urge that this challenge be seen as a global challenge, for terrorism affects all nations, large and small.
I also urge all people of goodwill to recall the wise words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who said that hate, like cancer, “begets hate and violence begets violence in a never-ending circle of destruction”.
In the aftermath of this heinous crime, there is the risk that specific communities, such as the Muslims, will face violent repercussions; Isalmophobia is not, alas, an uncommon form of xenophobia and intolerance. So it must be emphasised that all ordinary Muslims stand together in condemning such acts of terror. Contemporary Muslim societies have been largely shaped by the recent legacy of their colonial subjugation. Yet, despite their often grim social reality, ordinary Muslim men, women and children abhor those who would use violence to air their grievances.
Muslims, Christians and Jews have a common shared history. The politics of the Middle East must not be allowed to destroy the natural capacity that people of faith have to live together and to work together. We must always hold fast to the moral values contained in our common heritage despite the conflicting rights and comparable injustices still separating us. Bloodshed is no answer.
Tuesday’s tragic events serve to remind us that the world today is increasingly interconnected. And as borders come to lose their meaning, no nation can afford to isolate itself. We are moving towards a single world with a single agenda and that agenda must be set with a view to fostering reconciliation and understanding.
Although tit-for-tat measures may sometimes appear to be an attractive option in the short term, we in the Middle East know that they only make a mockery of any and all attempts at real peace – between traditions, between nations, between civilisations, between equals. We ourselves have failed to develop a civilised framework for disagreement. Sometimes, too, we reject international processes that just might allow us to find a new way forward. This is a mistake and one that must not be repeated in the context of the struggle against terrorism.
A common consensus must be reached to strengthen UN Security Council resolutions encouraging international cooperation against terrorist activities. Our goal will be to tighten the noose around terrorist networks and their supporters. World leaders and religious representatives across the globe must also send out a clear message that terrorism is anathema to any religion and must be isolated from it.
As we contemplate, in the days and weeks ahead, the horrific images of devastation now etched in our memories and share the grief of our neighbours in the United States, we will also search for other ways to reinforce our common humanity and identify our common fears. For, make no mistake about it: Yesterday’s attacks were aimed at one world composed of many nations and not at one nation alone.
Prince El Hassan Ben Talal contributed this article to the Jordan Times.