King Abdullah II: “Iraq is the Battleground – the West against Iran”: On January 11, 2005, Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, interviewed King Abdullah II at his private office in a secluded compound outside of Amman. (Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005)
Middle East Quarterly: How do you identify and energize the “silent majority” of Muslims that opposes Islamist extremism?
Abdullah: It’s just not good enough to say, “Fine, we are God-fearing Muslims, this is what we believe in and this is the line that we draw in the sand.” The real question for us is how do we take the battle to the street and start winning the street war. It’s not just inside the Muslim world. It’s also a battle for our friends in Europe and in the West.
MEQ: What is the best way to fight against the extremist ideology that motivates Islamist terrorism?
Abdullah: One of our top priorities for addressing the “hearts and minds” question is to tackle the issue of extremist clergy and how they operate inside Muslim communities. We are currently working on setting up pilot projects with our friends, the British, to get Muslim clergy from our part of the world to give the clergy in British society the ammunition to start winning back the street. This is not something that happens overnight; this will take five, ten years. If we can get the mechanism working in England, we can then duplicate it in Europe and other countries. We’re starting our work in England. If we can succeed there, then we can multiply the effort and apply it to the United States. I’ve talked to the president about this; I just had a long talk with John Kerry about this, too. This is different than the work of interreligious organizations. Our challenge is how to get these ideas down to the average Muslim. […]
MEQ: Do your neighbors have the same approach?
Abdullah: In private, they do. At the time of the Beslan school massacre in Russia, all of us were disgusted. But it’s just not good enough to sit in the privacy of one’s home and say how awful this is and condemn these people who are defaming Islam. This was a crime against humanity, and we have to be much more vocal, in public. In my view, Islam is going in a direction that’s very scary, and as the Hashemite Kingdom, we have a moral obligation to stand up. Yes, there are a lot of other things that are happening inside the Muslim world, but we have to draw the line. If we don’t, then these people are going to win.
Even the Saudis have started talking more openly. They were supportive of the conference that we had here in Jordan for Iraq’s neighboring states where we issued a clear and unambiguous call against extremism. They were vocal in Amman. They are more vocal in their own country, now. But there are still some in Saudi Arabia who think that the problem of these bin Ladin supporters is a passing threat and that six months from now the extremists won’t have a leg to stand on. That’s just not the case and to think so is to sugarcoat the problem. It doesn’t solve the problem that they have inside the country, nor does it solve the problem that we in the Muslim world have.