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interview with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal

The JordanCIA The World Factbook

YI: And then when we talk about extremism - the West tend to equate Islam with extremism. Yes, there are elements of extremism in any religion. Among Muslims who are moderates, why are they not standing up and defending the cause of moderate Islam?

Prince Hassan: I think in the case of the Islamists from one end of the Muslim world to the other, these are populist movements. They are born of the communities. So, they recognize the groundswell of misery. The culture of hatred is based on the realities of deprivation. Yes, many of the founders are wealthy and many of them are disgruntled people who studied in the west and come home to compare the wealth and the lifestyle of the west with the miseries of their people. But I think the time has come to recognize that to talk of Islam and the rest, we have to put the rest to rest. By that I mean going back to the 100 million job opportunities predicted by the World Bank, for example, in West Asia and North African regions. Will they be realized by 2015? Will India, for example, address the subject of poverty by 2040? All of these are predictions but unfortunately, the Gulf region is reaching out in terms of a perceived bubble. There is no production base. I think that as far as the productive capability of people culturally, we are not creating, we are not teaching by analogy, we are not putting ourselves in the shoes of the other, the rich, most of all. I think that Islamic slogans are on the increase, because of the obvious disasters that are taking place in our Lebanese, Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, Sudanese backyards. Let me tell you I was working with lepers in Sudan in the 1980s. Nobody was interested in the humanity of Darfur at that time. Today, their interest is given, God knows the situation is very, very moving and very tragic, but at the same time it is a proper fact that oil is going to move from the Red Sea to Cameroon, the west coast of Africa. Is it not a fact that they have 12 gold mines? So, I think the cynical view gets down to the general public. But the most important point is that governments have lost their bedside manner. We call it ethical governance. There is no ethical governance anymore.

YI: So fighting terrorism at the end of the day is fighting poverty, ignorance and unequal opportunities?

Prince Hassan: And fighting for equal opportunities through creating effective citizenship. Fifty million people are born unregistered every year, according to the UNHCR. So what about racial equality in this? What about a quorum for humanitarian order? We started in 1988 in the General Assembly and we had calls for fundamental rights of humanity, calls for human security, but it seems to me that in this world we can talk about economic order, technological order, security order, but don't talk about humanitarian or humanism. And this is the problem. We had militancy in Latin America in the 1970s, 1980s before the Cancun conference. So it's not peculiar for the Muslim world.

YI: And the Red Brigades.

Prince Hassan: Yesterday, we heard of the release of one of the permanent member of the Red Brigades and we had the Red Brigades even in Jordan in 1970 when the slogan became, "Amman - Hanoi of the Arabs." Today maybe Baghdad is the Hanoi, the mercenaries will flock to this war-torn region.

YI: Could the problem in many developing countries, where terrorism is on the rise, like in Indonesia, southern Thailand, southern Philippines be a lack of political will on the part of governments?

Prince Hassan: I think when one looks at the Laos, Cambodia, Thai situation from the optical Asian Muslim association and the Catholic Bishops Council, one finds a huge numbers of children who are sold every year. When you hear of human parts and human beings and when you visit a family of 18 and you say, why did you sell this child? And the answer is to keep the other 17 alive. These are the basic facts.

YI: Very sad.

Prince Hassan: What is sad is they are not creating a geography of hope.

YI: How do you create a geography of hope?

Prince Hassan: By recognizing that geography is about demography, about people, not only about resources, not only about the geo-physical in terms of the mysteries of soil. Going back to Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' we are misusing soil, 40 billion tons of topsoil are being blown away every year. Geology is about the misuse of minerals and you see the exploitation in the different parts of the world of the poor, and the extraction of the minerals. But the geography of hope is about recognizing that each region can be a building block towards a more stable tomorrow for our grandchildren. Otherwise, we're accepting the supremacy of the strong.

YI: Your Highness, President Musharaf was recently in Indonesia, in Malaysia and I understand he visited some countries in this area also, in an effort to start something to resolve the Palestinian issue, which many see as the root problem of the whole terrorism, Islamic issue. What are the prospects for that?

Prince Hassan: Before I come to my part of the world, you mentioned Malaysia and Indonesia. They may be distant from us in terms of kilometers, but not at all distant from us in terms of public opinion. Whenever there is an outrage in terms of excavations in Jerusalem, you seem Muslims demonstrating in Indonesia and in Malaysia and in Bangladesh. There is a strong affinity. I think it's truly important that these out of perimeter Muslim communities and countries play a stabilizing role in our region. For that matter, when I heard Malaysia and Indonesia might be offering troops for UN peacekeeping in Lebanon, I was personally quite optimistic. It was impossible because of the non-recognition issue of Israel. But I do think the time has come to point out that Muslims should not be stereotyped as the Shia of south Lebanon, with due respect, or the Sunni of Iraq. The time has come to recognize that Muslims are a part of the fabric of our world, whether in the house of conciliation in the state of Europe where you have millions of Muslim migrants, either because of the ongoing war in Iraq or in Palestine. And of course you have a huge Christian Arab communities. But what are the practical steps? I think that the focus of a process in Palestine is the work of the quartet, obviously. But at the same time, I think the quartet - the three Security Council members, the United Nations, the Russian Federation have to realize that unless there is a will shown by Muslim countries in the region, moderate Muslim countries in the region, it would be very difficult to contain not extremism, but reasons for extremism.
     I was very happy to see this meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia - the reconciliation between Hamaz and Fatah. I would think that similar meetings of reconciliation talks are really not about creating national reconciliation governments alone, or creating a national platform for reconciliation between religious leaders - say like in the Iraqi situation but there are about putting society back, putting community back in this region and putting them back on the course of rebuilding the regional agenda against this background of the continuing fragmentation.
     Pakistan is a victim of a large number of refugees as a result of this open-door policy, the same way Jordan has been the host of a large number of refugees. I think this movement is a clear indication that Pakistan cares, that all the Southeast Asian communities are aware, and that is why we come to Islamabad now to focus more intently on the West Asian dilemma. Can we continue to live with this Shia-Sunni divide? I think that these are all grotesque caricatures which have to be understood. Yes, there are tensions but these tensions are not insurmountable.

YI: I sense some optimism in your words.

Prince Hassan: I believe the norm in this part of the world is that it is the land of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilizations, the Pharaos, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Phoenicians and it was said by Aristotle of Carthage that there was never a military coup in Carthage because it was democratic. I think when these are moved to emphasize the importance of people participation, then we're on the right tract.

YI: You are right, so on that high note, thank you very much for your time.

Prince Hassan: Thank you.

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