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'Moderates must fight extremists'

In an exclusive interview, Jordan's King Abdullah tells Vir Sanghvi that Islam has been hijacked by extremists.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 04:42 IST

The time has come for moderate Muslims all over the world to stand up and fight the extremists within the community.

In an exclusive interview to the Hindustan Times, King Abdullah of Jordan said, "Let the silent majority win the street back."

King Abdullah said that Islam had been hijacked by a minority of extremists who had imposed their own agenda on the community. Further, he said, this agenda relied on miscommunication of Islam's tenets.

All over Asia, Muslims who did not speak Arabic were often misled into believing that the Koran said something which it did not. "The only solution is education and the dissemination of information."

The king is on an official visit to India, his first to the country. He is accompanied by his wife, Queen Rania, who was also here a few months ago.

He reiterated Jordan's support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council and said that he hoped to usher in a new era of economic cooperation.

"We have good relations at the governmental level. But the true relationship will be between the private sectors."

Shortly before he left Jordan, King Abdullah met US President George W Bush who is in the region to meet with the Iraqi prime minister.

Asked if he sensed a change in the US president's attitude to Iraq following Republican reverses in the mid-term polls, the king answered carefully: "There is no doubt that Iraq is the number one issue in the United States with regard to domestic politics. People are concerned about the safety of US troops."

King Abdullah said he believed that this was now a last-ditch attempt to resolve the situation in Iraq. "The region will pay a heavy price if this conflict continues," he said. "This conflict will spread beyond the borders of Iraq."

Asked about the perception that Iraq had, in the past, supported Pakistan against India, the king said: "I think we have to be as neutral as possible. We very much hope for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

The king's view is that Asia cannot afford a conflict between a Muslim and non-Muslim country because of what it will do to Muslim populations in the region. "We should do everything to avoid a clash of civilisations or a situation that leads to one." Therefore, it was important for any India-Pakistan dispute to be resolved peacefully.

Jordan's major concern is, of course, the Israel-Palestine conflict and King Abdullah believes that time is running out. "If we do not have movement towards a two-state solution within the next six months," he said, "then I think there will be no peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And therefore, no peace between Arabs and Israelis."

The king argued that the importance of the Palestine issue went beyond West Asia. "Muslim communities all over the world, whether in Malaysia, Indonesia or India are being radicalised by extremists who use the frustration with the core issue of Palestine as an excuse," he said.

First Published: Dec 01, 2006 02:04 IST