Muslim world faces 'severe crisis,' Jordan's crown prince says

Monday, August 5, 2002

AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan's Crown Prince Hamzeh on Sunday suggested the Muslim world needs a modern approach to Islamic thinking if it is to escape poverty, illiteracy and absence of freedoms.

Hamzeh, a half brother of Jordan's King Abdullah II and heir to the throne, told a gathering of 100 scholars that the Muslim world was facing "a severe crisis."

He blamed it on sectarian divisions and the Western media "tarnishing Islam's image."

"Poverty, illiteracy, absence of freedom and being lax in protecting human dignity are just some of the features of this crisis," he said.

He proposed an objective and modern approach to Islamic "methodology and ideology," saying a starting point was "changing what's within ourselves."

He urged educational reforms to "prepare our students since childhood to integrate into the modern world," allowing them to communicate with other cultures and "set them free from the isolated mentality."

Social oppression seen

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, many in the West cited a lack of freedoms and political and social oppression in the Muslim world for encouraging radical Islam and producing people like the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But in the Middle East, political and religious leaders argue their religion and societies are being misinterpreted and unfairly depicted by the West as extremist and violent.

Hamzeh did not specifically address those questions.

He spoke in the capacity as head of the board of trustees of Al al-Beit Foundation for Islamic Ideology, the gathering's host.

The three-day conference is dedicated to discussing challenges facing Islam, including fanaticism, secularism and Muslim prophecies.

In later sessions, two scholars focused on the Sept. 11 fallout, condemning the New York and Washington attacks as a "terrorist act" forbidden in Islam. But they accused America of overreacting.

Iran's Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri said the U.S.-led war on terror was an "evil and tyrannic plan" to "impose (U.S.) hegemony" on the world.

Abdul-Majid al-Khoei', an Iraqi dissident living in Britain and a renowned Shiite Muslim figure, said all Muslim countries have been accused of "harboring terrorism because the ones who carried out the crime originated from certain Muslim nations."

In separate speeches, Taskhiri and Khoei' urged objectivity, moderation and unity among Muslims. Taskhiri also sought Muslim governments to uproot "blind fanaticism," introduce democracy and encourage dialogue with other civilizations and religions.

Both scholars belong to the Al al-Beit foundation, a semi-independent think tank established in 1980 by Hamzeh's late father, King Hussein, who died of cancer three years ago. The institution's name derives from Jordan's ruling Hashemite dynasty, which claims ancestry to the Prophet Mohammad.

Members in the group include top clergymen and religious affairs ministers from throughout the Muslim world and scholars from countries including the United States, Britain, China, Russia, India and Pakistan.

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