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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Talking Point Special: Prince Hassan bin Talal
Prince El Hassan bin Talal
The following is a transcript of our phone-in programme Talking Point, with special guest Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.


Robin Lustig:
Welcome to Talking Point. I'm Robin Lustig broadcasting on BBC World Service on radio and BBC News Online on the internet.

Over the coming weeks the BBC World Service and BBC News Online will be bringing together world leaders and experts to discuss the changing relationship between the West and the Muslim world. Today to launch the series we're joined by Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. He's the brother of the late King Hussein and a passionate advocate of dialogue between Islam and the West. But in the past two years, ever since the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington, there's been more violence than dialogue. Two Muslim countries - Afghanistan and Iraq - have been invaded and there have been violent attacks blamed on Islamic militants in Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and India. More than 350 people were killed in those attacks.

Well let me now introduce our guest, His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal joins us from the Jordanian capital Amman. Prince Hassan was the crown prince of Jordan for more than three decades, he's the uncle of the present king - King Abdullah - and a long time advocate of the need for dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.

Prince Hassan thanks very much indeed for joining us on the programme, we do appreciate it. Let me ask you one question myself, if I may, right at the start. Do you agree that since those attacks two years ago in America the relationship between Islam and the Western world is in crisis?

Prince Hassan I believe in the terms that you put it, it is in crisis but I would say Robin that most of those - and if I can quote Andrew Wheatcroft in his excellent book Infidels - the conflict between Christian Christendom and Islam. Most of those who believe that the infidels, Saracens, Agarins, Ishmaelites, Turks, were savage and barbarous had never met a Saracen or a Turk in their lives. And I think that it's really rather like the reds under the bed, if you recall, before the Soviet Union's wall between the East and the West collapsed and there's a parallel between east and west here possibly, everyone thought that all Communists were evil, I personally feel that now is the turn for all the greens under the bed - and I'm not referring to the conservationists but to the Muslims who basically are seen by millions of people - particularly in the United States, let's not forget that only 8% of Americans carry passports or something within that neighbourhood, 20% expressed their views on public issues. And I think that the concept of, as you say, bin Laden, followed by in quick succession Saddam Hussein and before that, of course, the threat - let's not forget - of Belgrade, the continuous unfinished business of these people who never seem to be caught - Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and before that Karadzic and Maladic seems to give us all the impression that somehow the West or certain neo-conservative schools in the West need an enemy and this is what I find rather worrying. As a promoter of dialogue I feel that the infusion of new knowledge - and I agree with Wheatcroft - is vital to maintaining hostility and the new knowledge, unfortunately, is coming from the media outlets.

Robin Lustig:
Alright, well thank you for that. So let's take our first call, Hazem Abu-Eseifan is on the line from Paris in France. Hazem hello.

Hazem Abu-Eseifan:
Hello sir.

Robin Lustig:
Right your question, your thought?

Hazem Abu-Eseifan:
Well I would like to start by a small introduction. I'm a Jordanian citizen. I was born inside Arabia to a devout Muslim family. Went through that country's religious education until the end of high school. And of course we used to summer in Jordan every year. Then went to Turkey to study at university and ended up living there for 13 years and now I live in France. So you can say I've been through the full spectrum of the East West divide if you like. And what I've noticed is - through reading and following up commentary on both sides - is that the West seems to understand Islam far better than vice versa. I mean of course there is understanding on both sides but an interested individual in the West has a far better chance of having access to balanced, broad, profound analysis of the Western world than his counterpart in the Muslim world.

Robin Lustig:
Alright, stop there just for one second Hazem because I want to ask Prince Hassan if he agrees with that - do you agree?

Prince Hassan:
Well having studied in the West and possibly lived a little longer than our friend who's a student through all phases of my formal education in England I would say that working with today four networks of centres of Islamic studies in the West that the knowledge does agree but what use is the knowledge if unfortunately, as I said, the ad hocracy of the media today and I make an exception in this conversation, if I may, Robin, is emphasising the listening and reading from visual images as much as we do today. I'd like to quote a prominent scholar, Archbishop Rowan Williams - the Archbishop of Canterbury, who says what matters for the Christian, that the world is for joy and contemplation before it is for use because it comes from God's freedom and delight not to serve the purpose of a selfish divine ego. Our account of our own human nature, therefore I think, is extremely important and in that sense I would like to say that all the Western agreements - the Barcelona process, for example - focus on security, economy and politics but none of them focus on culture and civilisational content and that is why I'm trying very hard to establish, hopefully with Mr Prodi's help, a centre for Mediterranean humanities so that we recognise the shared origins and we recognise the importance of reviving, as Cosimo de Medici did in the context of Islam and the Italian Renaissance, a conversation between Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian for that matter, and modern perceptions.

Robin Lustig:
But you see what Hazem seems to be suggesting is that it is more likely that somebody living in the West - an American or a French person or a Brit - to have that conversation than it is for many Muslims living either in the Arab world or elsewhere. For example, I mean if you take an average Saudi citizen or an average Pakistani citizen do they know more or less, do you think, about Christianity, Judaism, other major religions, than their counterparts living in a Western nation?

Prince Hassan:
Well I'd like to remind you that Christianity is very much a part of the East - Arab and Muslim are not uniquely synonymous, Arab and Christianity was born in Bethlehem just up the road. And in terms of to know is to love - love thy neighbour - I'd just like to point out that in the caucuses - Christian Russia backed Muslim Abkhazia against Christian Georgia, Muslim Iran played off Christian Armenia against Muslim Azerbaijan - the list continues. Ossetians against Georgians, both Christians, [indistinct words] and the most clear example of Christian Muslim friction was in Lebanon where savage battles raged between Muslims, Christians and Jew and Druze, all of whom knew each other sufficiently well. So I would just like - I mean the list continues Moldovans versus Russians, Hungarians versus Romanians, Macedonians versus Greeks - these are all Christians and I haven't yet touched on Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

Robin Lustig:
Alright, well let's get back to Hazem then, Hazem what do you think?

Hazem Abu-Eseifan:
Well I mean what His Highness said I have nothing to disagree with that but still what really startles me when I look at the cultural scene in the Western world is that almost apart from people like His Highness, who sort of tried to take a balanced approach to the West, almost everybody else sort of looks from their own corner, I mean you find Islamists, for example, who only vilify the West, you find liberals who unreasoningly glorify the West, you have nationalists or leftists who only dabble in conspiracy theories. There is really very little chance - and I mean I have no proof of that other than experience having lived through these places - there is very little chance of an average educated Arab to find a balanced analysis of the West. You open the newspaper, read anything it's either an Islamic lambasting the West for conspiring against the Arabs, it's either a liberal who turns the West into something like Alice in Wonderland and so on and so forth. Whereas open a Western - open the newspaper in the West, there's no need to name names, but you can find a rather more balanced, more profound approach. I don't think - another point here is - argument and counter argument really cannot change much about that - every argument has a counter argument - so what we need is more openness.

Robin Lustig:
I'm going to stop you there, thank you for that. I want to read this e-mail which comes from Jon here in London. "Islamophobia is caused by the failure of the silent majority of decent, reasonable, law abiding Muslims to actively counter and effectively deal with the vocal minority of terrorists, suicide bombers and radicals. Prince Hassan is that right?

Prince Hassan:
I agree that the sane majority, as I would call it, needs dialogue centres in the East and the West which I agree I believe today are still a distance apart from each other. I think the West in general and the United States in particular include a token of Muslims and Arabs, of course a figure which is increasing. But qualitatively Islam and the Arab world is I think importantly focusing on chairs of occidental studies. I have called recently for a university of the public good, possibly in [indistinct word]. I think there's a dialogue between cultures in two programmes we have initiated, including the Club of Rome and the Parliament of Cultures, Yehudi Menuhin always said - let's not work against something, against Islamophobia or against Semiticaphobia. I'd just like to say here that terror is not Islamocentric, it's Islamophobic. We have developed a programme for partners in humanity with foundations in the United States and the West, broadly defined, and this programme, I hope, will develop a two-way conversation whereby the script writing for the media will include the contribution of centres of learning in the West. Lastly, I just returned from Romania yesterday where the excellent programme, Agenda 21, for the focus on higher education in terms of the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, which is after all the bridge between East and West, I mean Europe in a sense is an extension of Asia geographically speaking and it's a political expression. But education is a part of the process of reconciliation and there I'd like to commend to you the forthcoming Bologna process, which is reviewing the whole system of higher education between East and West, if you will, the European countries, and the benefit that the Erasmus programme and the Tempest programme have offered students in Western universities of learning by analogy. And I think this should be brought into the Arab and Muslim world sooner rather than later.

Robin Lustig:
Okay let's take another call. Nadia Hussain is on the line from Calgary in Canada. Nadia hello.

Nadia Hussain:
Hello.

Robin Lustig:
What are your thoughts?

Nadia Hussain:
Well as young Muslim female residing in a non-Muslim country for several years my question is what specific roles can I play in furthering a constructive dialogue between non-Muslims and Muslims, particularly subsequent to the events of 11th September 2001, there's obviously been in interest within Canada as well regarding a discussion on what Islam actually constitutes and I think that's part of a Muslim's responsibility - it's our obligation to explain Islam as best we're able to. Now there are a large number of Muslims within my local Muslim community here who have the fear of being further ostracised or alienated are unwilling or feel unable to do that. So I'm just wondering, as a young Muslim female, how can I help in furthering this constructive dialogue.

Robin Lustig:
Before I ask Prince Hassan to reply to that, just tell me a little bit, Nadia, about what your experience has been over the last couple of years since September 11th 2001.

Nadia Hussain:
Well it's been mixed, I mean there have been positive interactions and there have been negative ones as well. And I find - I mean I have been trying to deal with all types of people from all different backgrounds and I think - I mean perhaps justified, I'm not certain, there is a real large fear towards Muslims and I fear that very challenging because I do consider myself very close to my faith, I'm very proud to be a Muslim and I would like to sort of explain away these misconceptions and fears regarding Islam which I think is quite well established - the huge fear within Canadian society generally speaking.

Robin Lustig:
Have you had occasions when you have tried to explain to people why just because you're a Muslim doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with those who carried out and organised the attacks of 9/11?

Nadia Hussain:
Oh absolutely, I have had to explain it during seminars at university and I've had to explain it on day-to-day interactions with non-Muslims. And actually they become very surprised when I tell them that I'm Muslim because they have this misconception that Muslim females are supposed to be quiet or repressed, or whatever it is, I'm not certain, but yes I have had those types of interactions and I welcome Prince Hassan's initiative towards trying to minimise this gap.

Robin Lustig:
So Prince Hassan what would you say to Nadia?

Prince Hassan:
I would say to Nadia that there are excellent centres of learning in Canada in particular, in McGill there is a centre for Muslim studies and I remember addressing graduate students - 60 or 70 of them, Jews, Christians and Muslims - the lode star of Judaism is love - of Christianity is love, Judaism is law and Islam is justice and I think you need law, love and justice to be able to work for a code of conduct. I think that what we're basically talking about is the underlying fear of terror and I would like to tell you that we are all living in dire fear of terror. Muslims are being killed and targeted today as part of the tit for tat war on terror in Palestine, as you know the process has almost broken down. Muslim moderates have been killed in broad daylight in Najaf, the holiest city of Shiism. And I would love to hear President Bush, who after all has launched this war against terror, to start talking about working for a code of conduct, possibly in his United Nations speech, where elements such as to uphold the principle of no coercion, to be able to uphold the right to proclaim one's own religion, to ensure a free flow of information, to get to those people who the FBI have very courteously visited and knocked on the door to inquire about their Muslim affiliations, and to say to them - well we also have other suggestions in sub-security of a new development which includes discussion groups, which includes the media looking more favourably at developing the middle ground rather than obviating differences.

Robin Lustig:
Okay, thanks for that. Our next caller is in Sierra Leone in West Africa, Umaru Fofana is on the line from Freetown. Umaru hello.

Umaru Fofana:
Hi Robin. Actually my point is [indistinct words] that Islam, which kind of epitomises peace, is being used by some terrorists, under the guise of being Muslims and crusaders, to carry out terrorist activities and this is very much unfortunate. I am a Muslim myself and I abhor such [indistinct words] of some Muslims with terrorism is the most unfortunate thing that has followed the religion I think since it was actually founded. Now having said I would like to know what Prince Hassan thinks is the [indistinct words] that some people, under the guise of Islam, all over the world carrying out terrorist activities. And I also would like to know whether [indistinct words] that the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular will disband the use of Islam by any organisation such as Hizbollah or [indistinct words] for any terrorist activities, any political party .

Robin Lustig:
Okay Umaru I don't know if you're still there but we got the gist of your question, just stop there for a second, because I'd be very interested to hear what Prince Hassan says about that. We're getting close to the nub of the issue for many people in the West - the connection, if there is one, between Islam and terrorism because some groups who carry out acts which the West regards as terrorism use the name of Islam to explain and to justify what they do.

Prince Hassan:
I would remind the caller that as moderator of the conference for religions and peace we were able to establish interaction councils in Sierra Leone, in Yugoslavia, in Indonesia and more recently in Iraq. And the problem is that when you go and say to the community leaders - you're the servants of the community and we are the servants of the servants, how can we help you? They say - in 40 years of marshal law and instability nobody has encouraged us to do that. I mean there are two bishops, for example, that I have mentioned on a previous broadcast in Iraq said - thank you for bringing us together. So it's the limb of the noble of art of conversation has atrophied we have to revive it. I'd like to make a point however, a point made by Simone Veil, who is a survivor of the holocaust, who said that an indigenous American, who had lived through the genocidal terror at the age of the conquistadors who had seen massacre and plague and the destruction of a culture might or might not retain an allegiance to their traditional religion. So I would like to point out that there is a distinction between talking about religion and its values, on which we - I believe mostly agree, if we talk about a shared consciousness, once again love, justice and clearly an acceptance of a framework for these agreements - enhancing what is universal and respecting differences. But I think that the label religion in this world of commodities and this world of commercial products and to forget the elimination of the Indian nation from 16 million to 1 million in 400 years and to suggest that these early beginnings were un-Christian is patently untrue because after all the United States was founded by the founding fathers with a very strong Christian tradition.

Robin Lustig:
But you see every time you or any other prominent Muslim in public life says there is no connection between Islam and terrorism there are people in the West who say well how is it then that groups like Hizbollah, like Islamic Jihad, like Ansar Al Islam, all of them use the name of Islam in their very titles - they do what they do in the name of their religion?

Prince Hassan:
Well not in my name is all that I would like to say and certainly not in the name of religion. I think that in terms of Muslim and Islamists I'd like to make it very clear that I'm a Muslim and a Hashemite and by definition I don't have to suggest that I pertain to Islam - I mean Hashemites after all belong to the lineage of the Prophet, alayhis-salam. But this term Islamist has become synonymous with terrorists and as I've said of bin Laden if he chooses effectively to destroy human life and civilian life at that this is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam. He and others like him have had the benefit of exposure to the West, the benefit of access to huge sums of money and they have been patently spent in destroying civilisation and destroying the culture of peace which I would like to see promoted into this century where all we can see is the promotion of the culture of conflict and war. So when you say how is it, I would also add well how is it that Che Guevara and groups of militants in Latin America, for example, all the different groupings in Northern Ireland or the different groupings now the Basques or whomsoever on the terrorist list are not mentioned as Christian terrorists but rather more mentioned in terms of ethnic terrorism. I think that these people in the Muslim context, and I'm not defending their case, if they genuinely believe that there should be an end to the occupation of Palestine, as they see it, or an end to the occupation of Iraq, as they see it, are basically promoting a hard line ethnic exclusionist case. I believe in inclusion and I believe in pluralism and I believe that that inclusion also should apply to Israel today because I think Israel is at the crossroads - does it wish to be a pluralist society or does it wish to be an exclusivist society? Social justice - and I'm quoting Karen Armstrong in her Islam - A Short History - was the crucial virtue of Islam. Muslims were commanded as their first duty to build a community characterised by practical compassion in which there was a fair distribution of wealth. We are to blame, also as Muslims, because we have not seen to this fair distribution of wealth - there are $1.3 trillion in the United States owned by a minority in this part of the world and yet we go on grumbling about the disparities that exist. Unless altruism comes into our dictionary once again I think that we will continue to find a mushrooming of these organisations who are really controlling at the level of governance - not government - the man in the street.

Robin Lustig:
So do you acknowledge then that in some part the rise of these organisations is due to misgovernment within Muslim and Arab countries?

Prince Hassan:
I fully condone that, I think that rulers have thought for a very long time that the trickle down effect would change for the better the lives of the ordinary man in the street. It has not done so. Participatory governance has simply not taken place, democracy, as suggested by the United States in the context of the wake of the Iraq war, the aftermath of the Iraq war but unless we go federal and there is something in it for everyone, that everyone is represented - whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish - in all the different schools I don't see any hope for recognition of the human being as the central factor - the anthropolitical rather than the petropolitical factor. It's the people who live around the pipelines who are important, it's not the pipelines that are important. And I'm very worried about this swathe from Egypt to India with all the contradictions that exist, not least of all the cultural contradictions, but essentially the breakdown of government at the local level. If the soup kitchens are run by the extremist organisations, ready money is available through the existing organisations. One and a half million Pakistanis in [indistinct word] by the authorities, spinning and weaving silk were forbidden after 9/11 to export their textiles, as were Indians, to the West. And this puts 400,000 families in that project alone into the lap of the extremists.

Robin Lustig:
We've had an e-mail on this general area from Charles Hoffman, who's in New York, who asks: "When can the world expect Muslim countries of the Middle East to adopt true democratic measures, such as free, open and transparent elections, an independent judiciary, free exercise of religion and speech and equal opportunity for women?"

Prince Hassan: Well as he's writing from the United States I think that only when the United States stops dealing with us on the basis of a hub and spokes policy, whereby each one of us unilaterally thinks what's in it for us in terms of a better relationship with the United States. And of course we can't compete with Israel because they have a privileged position. I mean I as a Jordanian am an Asian, an Egyptian is an African, he may be an Arab as well but this is more of a prosaic description than the reality. The Israeli gets the benefit of everything and I think the time has come to be told - the whole lot of us - Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Jews - that you are part of one region and you had better consider the fact that we, as the United States, are interested in developing and organisation for security and cooperation, a code of conduct, a regional ethic, whatever you may like to call it, to move from narrow politics in the United States and Europe to statesmanship and developing the common good. Islam and Christianity and Judaism are about developing the common good, the public good. But at the moment all we see is the developing of vested interests. Every single nationality has been in a room with me talking about the importance of a weapons of mass destruction free zone, when they get out in the broad sunshine unfortunately they are not interested in talking about these issues anymore. Now we have WTO and the Cancun summit, is there any chance effectively of talking about these regions - a region not only for trade but as a critical mass of these desperate people? I think it's only then that - I mean if we address the needs of people then we can start talking about their rights and their responsibilities.

Robin Lustig:
Okay, now we're going to take another call now. David Brown is on the line from Helsinki in Finland. David hello.

David Brown:
Hello Robin and greetings Prince Hassan. It's a special pleasure to speak with the Prince as I've just returned from my first trip to Jordan and I thought it was an absolutely fabulous society, I loved my time there. And it's always struck me, as I come in and out of the Middle East quite often, that the people who have the strongest opinions against Islam tend to be the people who haven't been there and haven't actually spent time with families in places like Syria and Jordan. And it seems to me that people see a news clip of Hizbollah for 15 seconds on the news and they think this is Islam and to me that's no more realistic than someone who watches an episode of Baywatch and thinks that this is American society. And I would really urge people to travel to Syria, to Jordan, to Lebanon where you'll be absolutely safe, where you'll be treated with respect and dignity and where you'll be welcomed with open arms and really get a sense of what it's like being in these cities and in this society. I mean I have to say that I feel safer walking down a street in Damascus than I would do in London or New York.

Robin Lustig:
Alright David thanks for that. Prince Hassan I'll come back to you in one second, I just want to take another call first, Imran Riffat is on the line from New York, Imran hello.

Imran Riffat:
Your Royal Highness the world perceives you to be a man ahead of your time and I salute you for not compromising your intellect or your intensity even though in some respects you have paid a price for listening to your conscience. My question to you is shouldn't the Arabic Islamic societies hold themselves partially responsible for the emptiness and despair that prevails on the streets - the lack of freedom of expression and dissent combined with an abundance of corrupt and bad governance has played a pivotal role in pushing the Islamic world towards the brink of a total economic, intellectual, social and political collapse. What should or can the rulers and the ruled do to break out of this vicious cycle?

Robin Lustig:
Thank you Imran. Prince Hassan.

Prince Hassan:
The freedom of the individual is essential, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom of belief.

Robin Lustig:
But is there any Islamic country in which those values are observed?

Prince Hassan:
This is what I was going to say that if there is possibly there are a few bright spots here and there in the Muslim world but I don't think that Muslim leaders, sadly, and possibly in many countries in the so-called Christian world, I mean if we talk about Islamism and Christianism the emphasis has not been on the involvement of the individual. Today I think as Muslims we do not want the unifuller world or a more multipuler world, we want a multilateral world. The problems that my friend is speaking of are problems I have heard from Christians, Muslims and Jews, from Buddhists and Hindus, my faith groups, with which I work, all over the world - when will the centrality of the human being be respected, when will citizen sovereignty be regarded, when will civil society be built? And my feeling is that the reasons for this degradation of freedoms is basically the old adage used for Somoza in Nicaragua - forgive me he may be a son of a bitch but he was our son of a bitch. So there are many sons of bitches owned by this and that vested interest in the world and I think the time has come very clearly to say that all we are interested in is governments who are prepared to develop and work for an ethic of human solidarity. Legislation for a new international humanitarian order has been in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations, who have accepted it unilaterally since 1988, why not add the word humanitarian and develop a culture of compliance with humanitarian and human rights law that applies to state actors as well as the non-state actors?

Robin Lustig:
Does it follow, from what you're saying, that your answer to the question - how can relations between Islam and the West - to use the shorthand - be improved? In part the answer is by Arab and Muslim governments improving the way in which they govern in their own countries?

Prince Hassan:
I agree with you totally, in very large part, I would say, I would also say that the time has come for altruism - for giving of ourselves, the creation of benevolent funds that are transparent and accountable where we work alongside people of other denominations, particularly as 70% or more of the world's refugees are Muslim, in a non-denominational peace corps, maybe a non-denominational media peace corps as well, where we tell the story as it is, not as our editorial boards want to hear it. And I think if I may that in terms of Sacat [phon.] or Sogatat [phon.] after 9/11 all of these funds were investigated which may be a healthy thing if at the end of the day we end up with saying to the Islamic Development Bank you have $4 billion reserves you don't know what to do with, why don't we focus on seeing Muslims and Christians working together, as with our programmes world conference - Peace and Hope for African Children - in six African countries against the threat of HIV? As with the Catholic Bishop Council and the Asian Muslims Association in Thailand and Cambodia where we have the horror, the stigma, of two and a half million children sold into the sex slave trade.

Robin Lustig:
Let me get your response, if I may, to this e-mail from California. Jane wrote to say: "Islam as it stands today is not compatible with secular democracy or with the Western concept of equality under the law. You would go a long way to bridging this divide if you owned up to the terrible discrimination faced by non-Muslims living under sharia." Not compatible with secular democracy.

Prince Hassan:
Well I think that the issue requires a session on its own. I would look at Turkey, for example, and say that Ataturk patently started what he called a secular democratic state. Now political secularism does not mean that you cannot be a Muslim, on the contrary you can be a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew, you can be a believer, it should protect civilians and protect their right to exercise their faith. Now having said all of that I just want to point out that these are generalised. If you were to come to my country, as the caller from Finland visited Syria, you would find that Christian citizens are full citizens sharing in full responsibility and benefiting from their own education curricula. In terms of sharia, of course, I would once again say that though sharia of course was basically in a country like mine, I'm not talking about Afghanistan before the change, focus on family law. But also correspondingly there are Christian canon courts, sharia is only the Muslim equivalent of canon law, which should actually be active in focusing on issues of Christian canon law. And I do not see that there is an element of incompatibility, I think that there is a strong element of a total lack of application. So I would like to say as we said in the humanitarian order winning the human race in 1989 was the sectoral report of 18 sectoral groups working on issues such as the question of discrimination, we emphasise the need to build upon the existing structure of human rights and humanitarian principles for all - universal declaration of human rights applies to all. So if we are signatories of these organisations' statements then effectively we should be called upon by the world community to observe. Now since Guantanamo, since all kinds of developments in the last few months, many people are questioning are the Western countries themselves respecting the rights of the individuals?

Robin Lustig:
We've got a lot more people want to contribute to this discussion. Our next caller is in Geneva in Switzerland, Nahla Rifai is on the line, Nahla hello.

Nahla Rifai:
Hello. It's an honour to be able to speak with Your Highness today and your efforts in promoting interface dialogue and better understanding of Islam are very well noted. Perhaps I could start off with a saying from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the Prophet said that we are a nation of moderation. I ask you how can we, as young Muslims today, promote this moderation and peace within ourselves? I find that very much we have to look within ourselves before going further. The Dalai Lama himself said that without inner peace it is impossible to have world peace. To establish dialogue with the West perhaps we should resolve our internal perceptions of where Islam stands today, what it means to us as young Muslims and how can we better adapt it to life in the 21st Century? I'm very interested to know Your Highness's views on the subject.

Robin Lustig:
Nahla do you ask a question because you feel that you're not getting enough guidance from senior Muslim leaders, both political and religious?

Nahla Rifai:
I believe there is enough guidance but I don't think that this guidance is publicised enough or is readily available to us young Muslims. I mean I've lived in both Eastern and Western societies, fully proud of being a Muslim but yet trying to interact as positively as I can with Western societies and values and I find that there is a lack of coherence in us as Muslims today of what it is to be a young Muslim because there is so much clashes, so much conflict with this current globalisation and modernisation, we seem to have not always taken the best of other cultures, including our own cultures. So my personal dilemma as a young Muslim is how to bridge the gap and try to enhance being a Muslim by taking the positives of both the West and Islamic society.

Robin Lustig:
Prince Hassan, bridging the gap, how does one do it?

Prince Hassan:
Firstly neither Judaism, Christianity nor Islamism is a monolithic block. And if I may address the subject of modernity, which is really the crux of the question. The question of modernity in the Western world, Rowan Williams again, may often produce a powerful reactionary synergy or strategy rather, strategy in some religious believers, the sort of thing we generically and not very helpfully call fundamentalism. The pressure is also visible to demonstrate our tradition in its full integrity can make intelligible order out of the chaos around by extending and renewing its repertoire of image and of concept. I'd like to suggest that we bear in mind the history of the Brahmo Samaj in India, the Sufi influence Western Islamic apologetic of writers like Gail Eday [phon.] at Eton or Martin Lings or the revival of Russian orthodox social and philosophical energy both at the beginning and the end of the 20th Century. To remind you that there are people out there, like Ashmawi, like Hassan Hanafi, like many of these people who are threatened by Muslim extremists at the present time, I mean physically threatened. while suggesting that we have to revisit the concepts of modernity, conversation is not between faiths, it's between the adherents of faiths. I don't - I believe that you should observe totally and I respect your right to believe whatever you believe in or do not believe in. your right to believe or not to believe is part of the Muslim credo. I would suggest that we share in the cultural content, however, of the ethos of moderation or centrism, share in Iberian and Andalusian experiences of Spain, share in the orientalism of Eastern Europe and speak of the children of Abraham today I would like to just emphasise that there is a transcending reality - yes we can affirm in our Jewishness, in our Christianity and in our Islam a centrism. Maybe good can come out of bad, may be we can turn the lemon into lemonade. Let us not be static and let's for God's sake have more conversations like the one that we're having at the moment.

Robin Lustig:
OK well let's take another call now. You talked about the place of Judaism in all this, our next caller is Israel Dalven, who's on the line from Emanuel which is a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Israel hello.

Israel Dalven:
Hello, good afternoon. I realise I'm speaking to an extremely articulate and liberal person, precisely the person who might be able to answer this but we'll give it a try. We're dealing with relations between Israel and the West, now I remember a number of years ago I heard the name of the leader of Libya as the sort that Islam required that we capture Spain, Sicily and needless to say of Israel based on Islamic law. How can people in the West, especially in these three countries, relate to an Islam that espouses ideas like that? Now the people who still live - no longer Moslem populations live there, at least not the majority and people want to live there in peace and independence and they don't want to be threatened by some religious extremism that wants to kill them all or convert them all. The leaders of Hamas said all the Jews should convert and then we'll have peace, now we're not interested in that.

Robin Lustig:
Okay Israel thank you. Prince Hassan.

Prince Hassan:
Don't ask me to comment on the statements of Mr Gaddafi, I mean that is entirely a world and universe of his own and I just put a full stop there before I put my foot further in it. I'd just like to say however that quoting preventive diplomacy news, I mean I really am horrified by the way - as to how Mr Gaddafi is now mending his bridges with the West after Lockerbie, after UTA, do you pay money to mend your bridges after the death of civilians, is oil the answer effectively to all conflicts? Maybe we should - you and I, my friends in [indistinct words] should also be oil rich so that we can be heard in this world. I say this with some passion.

Robin Lustig:
Just to be clear though, what you're saying is that you believe that the United States, Britain and France are wrong to do deals with Colonel Gaddafi, to draw a line under those incidents that you refer to?

Prince Hassan:
Well I'd like to ask you the same question Robin, do you think we are right? I mean then it extends itself to a characterisation of Islam, that at a given moment if we call the measure of your people and your corporations that in that context we can get away with murder simply by paying money - blood money - then I really wonder, as an Arab citizen, I wonder. I would say directly to Mr Gaddafi himself if I saw him.

Robin Lustig:
But you see Israel's point was that there are many people - some in Israel obviously but some elsewhere - who believe that there are at least some Muslims who believe that what their religion calls on them to do is to conquer the non-Islamic world.

Prince Hassan:
But let me also tell him in Hebrew - [Hebrew words] - behold how pleasant it is for us to dwell together in unity. I'm quoting my friend Albert Friedlander, the rabbi of the Westminster synagogue. We have held - I'm the only Muslim member of the Centre for Hebrew Studies at Oxford University and in preventive diplomacy the work of your own SIS Centre for Strategic Studies, I would like to say that notable thinkers, both Muslim and Jewish, diametrically opposed to those self-appointed topics of xenophobia and militancy, step forward to propose a different reading of their religio-cultural heritage and to uphold the system of beliefs and values that converge on the acceptance of the other. So - and I'm quoting once again, Scott Appleby, one of the heads of the Chicago Fundamentalist Project - ambivalence of the sacred. Now I may be ahead of my time and may be my time will be curtailed by being so outspoken, I really don't care. What I'm really distressed about is the fact that we do not listen to Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsberg, who wrote in praise of Goldstein's acts and so to justify it, if you recall .

Robin Lustig:
That was the man who committed the massacre in the Hebron mosque?

Prince Hassan:
Exactly and so to justify it on [indistinct word] grounds using for the title of his book, the biblical phrase - Blessed is the Man - which in Hebrew alludes to Goldstein's first name. I don't know what my friend Israel would feel about that but let's stop scoring points off each other and start talking about the shared future if we're to exist as humanity on this planet.

Robin Lustig:
Okay, I'm going to go head because Hamal Ibrahim [phon.] is on the line from Ramallah which is in the West Bank. Hamal your thoughts?

Hamal Ibrahim:
Yes thank you. It's difficult to speak after Prince Hassan's eloquence. I'm Christian Palestinian and I would like to make the following point. That the term Islamic terrorism might show some short-sightedness in terms of history, we might have become victims of the sound bite. We give the militants the benefit of the doubt by calling it Islamic terrorism. Look at the history of Europe in the 20th Century, all the blood letting there, the carpet bombing of Dresden, the burning of [indistinct word], we don't call that Britain's terrorism. Look at what's happening in Africa, we don't call that Black terrorism. Why did we allow this to be called Islamic terrorism? We should look at the causes, at what's happening and every individual case with its own merits. . and the previous speaker from a settlement on the land confiscated from Palestinians, that's another form possible of terrorism which should also be taken into account.

Robin Lustig:
Hamal thank you very much indeed for that. Prince Hassan you made a singular point a short time ago, while we're on the subject of Israel/Palestine I can't let you go without asking you what you make of the most recent developments - the resignation, in particular, of the Palestinian prime minister - Abu Mazen - Mahmoud Abbas - do you agree with those who say that spells the end of the process known as the road map?

Prince Hassan:
I believe that there should be a light at the end of the tunnel and the light for me would have been to make very clear that the permanent status issue is Jerusalem, the settlements, refugees, security issues would be discussed and however the road map focused entirely on security issues and seems to have fallen on security issues with the continuing tit tat killings and with Prime Minister Sharon suggesting that Hamas leaders are marked for death. But this is the tragedy effectively - I mean I always look for the tunnel at the end of the light. There was a light, there was a light in the white [indistinct word] when my late brother, suffering as he did, called for understanding. But I would go back to a Christian Arab and cite from Tarif Khalidi's the Muslim Jesus, sayings and stories in Islamic literature - Christ said - What is forbearance if one is impatient with ignorance? What is strength if one cannot restrain anger? What is worship if one is immodest before God Almighty? When fools come to worship they come at an inopportune time and sit above their station, when a crisis occurs wise counsel departs. This is our view of Christianity. And I think there are too many clever people around but may be a few too few wise ones.

Robin Lustig:
Let's take another call. Dennis Bauer Kessler is on the line from Brighton here in England. Dennis hello.

Dennis Bauer Kessler:
Hello Robin and hello Your Royal Highness. My question is - well really the context is I know that you recently helped to establish the Iraqi inter-religious counsel which brought together for the first time representatives of all of Iraq's religious communities - a rather astonishing and I believe unprecedented achievement. They've pledged to create a just society in Iraq but if religion can be a powerful force for peace and for affirming our common humanity, what role do these leaders now have in building a new Iraq and especially, most alarmingly, how can they possibly hope to overcome the divisions that the appalling car bomb assassination of Ayatollah Baqr al-Hakim will have created?

Robin Lustig:
Prince Hassan.

Prince Hassan:
Thank you for your empathy. I would say that they would not be able to play a role and that they are recognised as an important contributor to building what I said a federal approach to Iraq. This has been summarised by a wonderful article in foreign affairs by Adeed and Karen Dawisha in the first quarter. Essentially invites everyone - extremists, moderates, labour unions, civil society organisations - to participate in a positive view of the basics, a Muslim positive view of Christianity, which is what we have in the East - a Christian positive view of Islam. And the start of the commonality is to elect a lower house of government and an upper parliament and to elect an upper house. Iraq is a country that had a constitution in 1925, it is not a country that has just been discovered or that has no history, it had bad history but it also has good history. And I think the time has come to develop a moral authority in Iraq particularly in Najaf, as indeed we need a moral authority in political religious faiths in Jerusalem as well as in Mecca. The Western term is separate church from state, separate mosque or synagogue from state, I would say elevate religion and let us focus on the values that we share if we are to develop a code of conduct. In that sense I would quote Ibn Arabi, which was very much the mood of the conference and the term I used - paragraph I used - with them: My heart is open to all the Winds, it is a pasture for gazelles and the home for Christian monks, a temple for idols, the Black Stone of the Mecca pilgrims, the table of the Torah, and the book of the Qur'an, mine is the religion of love, wherever God's Caravans turn, the religion of love shall be my religion and my faith. Now equate that with the war on terror. How about a war for greater comprehension and better understanding? How about that atrophic limb of the art of conversation, can we begin to talk to each other to say about common humanity before it is too late?

Robin Lustig:
And just on the subject of Iraq, in the last 50 seconds of our programme, a quick e-mail from Jack London in Philadelphia: "If you were an ordinary citizen of Iraq looking at the current situation would you have wanted the US led war on Iraq?"

Prince Hassan:
Yes and no, obviously I'd have wanted an end to the horrors of Saddam Hussein and horrors of totalitarian rule in whichever form it has taken. And I object to totalitarian rule whether republican or monarchic. What is important is how do wars end? Will Iraqis be able to participate in forming their own future and determining their own cultural self-determination?

Robin Lustig:
There I'm afraid we are going to have to stop you, it is all we have time for today. So my thanks to our guest - Prince Hassan of Jordan - who joined us from Amman. And of course my thanks to everyone who took part in the programme. Don't forget you can keep sending us your e-mails to talkingpoint@bbc.co.uk and you can visit our special website at bbc.news.com/islam where you can watch or listen again to this programme or contribute to some of the other debates on Islam. There will be more programmes on related topics over the coming weeks, so try not to miss them. At this time next week Lyse Doucet will be here but for now from me Robin Lustig and from the rest of the Talking Point team here in London goodbye.





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