Jordan: Defending Islam

Category: Faith & Spirituality Views: 976

The Jordanian government took a stand against what it termed worldwide "Islamophobia" at the recent opening of a two-week session of the United Nations General Assembly. In a speech calling on international leaders to help combat the unjustified attack on Islam, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel-Elah Khatib made a rare plea that, although apparent among many Muslims, has seldom been voiced in formal international settings.

Khatib told the General Assembly that, "Islam is being subjected to a severe and unjustified attack," as quoted by the BBC on September 21. He said Islam was unjustly linked, sometimes intentionally as a means to discredit the religion, to extremist movements "which hurt Islam and Muslims by using religion as a tool." The international community, Khatib said, must take action to prevent the "proliferation" of Islamophobia.

While the national addresses of many leaders of Muslim countries are often replete with allusions to common Islamic ideals, few Muslim leaders have directly accused the international community of failing to prevent an unjustified attack on Islam. Sudan's Omar El Bashir, Libya's Muammar Qadhafi and Iran's Muhammad Khatami have rarely hesitated to make international appeals in the name of Islam; but Sudan, Libya and Iran have traditionally been excluded from world politics due to enduring enmity with the United States, rendering their pleas less effective. Jordan, on the other hand, is considered a Western ally in the Middle East and the country has lent crucial support for Western-backed peace efforts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

But Khatib's brief words in defense of Islam can be interpreted many ways. His condemnation of extremist movements, for example, could possibly be read as a castigation of all Muslim movements prone towards violence, even those that could legitimately be considered resistance movements, as being wholly un-Islamic. From this perspective, Khatib seems to be partially blaming Muslims themselves for anti-Islamic hysteria present in the world today.

Although Khatib was no doubt trying to distance Islam from the image of violence and extremism, his analysis of the causes of this misperception points subtly at the makers of the myths themselves. In his speech, the Jordanian FM said that all peoples could be victims of the same phenomena and challenges. By calling for an end to the proliferation of Islamophobia, Khatib is perhaps making the subtle argument that anti-Islamic sentiment creates an environment of prejudice and oppression, which in turn forces people into extreme positions. Like natural disasters, such circumstances, and the implied reaction to them, are not limited to one "race, religion, wealth or geographical location," Khatib said.

Khatib did not, however, stress the link between extremist reaction and the worldwide victimization of Islam. This link is often forgotten in coverage and analysis of "terrorist" activities around the world. In the former Soviet republics, in Kashmir, in Palestine and in Afghanistan, the question is yet to be asked: what came first, Islamic extremist activity or demonization of Islam and attacks on Muslims?

But Khatib's brief, though nonetheless courageous defense of Islam did touch on one other important message: if extremism by Muslims is a reaction to circumstances, it does not necessarily stem from Islam itself.

Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at

  Category: Faith & Spirituality
Views: 976
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Older Comments:
It is too bad that we, all people, can not realize that
oppression and attacks on Muslims and the world of
Islam is out of pure ignorance, starting with Pope
Innocent and the Cruisades. Being a Christian I am
very happy to tell you I love all my Muslim friends and
have learned so much from them. Praise God!!!!