September 11, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 419

The View of a Modern Arab Intellectual:The Modern Islamic State, by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan

September 11, 2002
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 419

The former crown prince of Jordan, Prince Hassan bin Talal, [1] is one of the most renowned intellectuals in the Arab world. [2] The following are exerpts of an article he has recently published in the London-based Arabic daily, Al-Hayat, on the modern Islamic state: [3]

The Modern Islamic State Should Be Based on Pluralism and Respect of Diversity
"The idea of the modern Islamic state is founded on principles that have been adopted by the contemporary Muslim as the foundations and the structure of his belief in a modern world, [a Muslim that is] secure in his identity while respecting the rights of minorities, seeking to espouse the culture of tolerance toward other cultures, respecting the supremacy of law, supporting cultural diversity, and applying equality and justice in all endeavors."

"Long before the discovery of the New World, Islamic civilization was the world's melting pot. Before the emergence of the nation-state, the Islamic world was a refuge for those escaping from religious and intellectual discrimination. Islam's support for scientific discoveries and its respect for the environment were no less significant than its concern for the social order. This was done not by religious coercion, but by education and the teaching of civic duties."

"My understanding of pluralism and respect of diversity which are advocated by the international society as basic natural rights were adopted by the Prophet Muhammad and the Khalifs who succeeded him. In constructing the modern Islamic state, it is imperative on Muslims not only to use the early model of the Islamic state but to ask whether we have lived up to that which we have inherited from our forefathers in terms of wisdom, civilization, and experience. It is also imperative to understand modern dynamics that govern us - in addition to the need to face up to the challenges brought about by globalization, mass communications, technological achievements, mass culture, and human rights."

Women's Rights
"The Islamic state is not isolated from the world and is not secure from pressing world problems- hunger, poverty, and disease. Half the world population is women and another 10% are disabled. If we fail to integrate these two elements into society we would lose more than fifty percent of potential human thought product. The Prophet Muhammad and his companions believed that heaven was under the feet of women."

"It is essential that conflicts, including those within the contemporary Islamic world, are resolved peacefully. The alternative will require an unwelcome arms race accompanied by a deterioration in the social and economic standards and a slowdown toward achieving human security."

"In reviewing the various aspects of the modern Islamic state, it is important to discuss the interdependence between capacity, armament, and debt, and how this crazy knot prevents a future of sustainable peace. There is a need to go back to the basic meanings on issues such as poverty."

"The modern Islamic state can take the initiative in the field of economics and politics by placing the well-being of people at the center of policy making, both national and international. Do we need wars to remind us of our common humanity? Why can't we build the means for defending peace during peaceful times? Why have international efforts in recent decades focused on peace keeping rather than peace making? Can we not speak of crisis prevention rather than crisis management? The modern Islamic state is a good example for putting an end to dehumanization, which we have witnessed, in the last century."

'September 11 - Absolutely Immoral'
"A commentary cannot be complete without mentioning the destructive events of September 11, 2001. The respect for the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of the great religions. When certain actions are taken in the name of a political cause, and its perpetrators resort to legitimizing them, these actions should be considered harmful to human dignity. Extremist violent actions like these, for which innocent men, women, and children are the targets and hostages, are absolutely immoral and no modern Islamic state should condone them."

"Mercy represents the true spirit of Islam, and it is possible to prove that it is the most vital element of the Islamic teachings. Mercy, in Islam, occupies a place second only to the oneness of God and the message of the Prophet. Mercy must be the moving exemplary principle that would enable any modern Islamic state to define the core of its modernity."

"In the construction of the modern Islamic state it is important to bear in mind that the Koran is devoid of any reference to a war of aggression or the promotion of violence. Even in circumstances in which Islam condones war it is in the defense of the oppressed and the victims of exploitation not for the purpose of attaining power. The right to wage war is only 'for the sake of Allah.' [In other words] it is for justice and protection of the rights of the poor and the exploited."

'Anthropolitics' - A Human Approach to Conflicts
"As a consultant to, and participant, in the dialogue of civilizations, and as a Muslim, I advised a new model of international relations and the construction of a new knowledge-based organization which addresses the problems of human societies, which I call anthropolitics, meaning the politics of humanity. The mere recognition of the human value will make it easier to move quickly from a stage of unrestrained conflict to a stage of peace."

"One of the major issues which confronts any nation state in our days, and the Islamic state cannot be shielded from it, is globalization, and the issue of managing the international public interest. This public interest, broadly defined, affects the relations of each nation-state towards other nation-states. The absence of an acceptable interrelated formula that addresses the future Islamic public interest renders extremist fundamentalism a danger for all Islamic states and their stability. Religious extremism has declared war on both the nation-state and on the modern Islamic state."

Religion and State Affairs Should Be Separated
"Our unique historical experience that relates to religious states shows the benefit of separating church from state for the benefit of all people. We need to distinguish between a religious government that seeks the well-being for all irrespective of their religions and the one which aspires to implement a single religious or secular point of view. Whenever theocracy is mentioned, people the world over, think of Iran. I like to remind them of the European theocracy, known as 'The Vatican.'"

"Islam respects human diversity. Muslims are not required to impose their beliefs on others, and the Koran is quite specific on this point. Muslims may enter into dialogue with others about the characteristics of all beliefs, but the final judgment remains in the hands of Allah alone, may 'He Be Blessed and Exalted.'"

'Equality is Incumbent on the Islamic State'
"The teachings of Islam support equality and it is incumbent on the Islamic state, whether in its old or modern constellation, to respect the rights of individuals and groups in their faith and citizenship notwithstanding the existence of examples to the contrary. Historical evidence suggests that the Islamic societies, by and large, had practiced these principles. The best evidence is the Constitution of Medina, negotiated by Prophet Mohammed with non-Muslims that guaranteed them their rights and duties, and their right for worship in places of their choice. It is a set of civil rules and an action program for Islamic pluralism. Subsequent rulers established the rights of the millet, [made up primarily of Jewish and Christian minorities as a means to protect the rights of minorities to practice their religion and the application of religious law to their members]."

"The International Declaration of Human Rights has established the principle that 'all human beings are born equal and have equal rights and dignity.' This principle is as much as an Islamic principle as it is a universal human rights principle."

The Vision of Muhammad Ali Jinah (The Father of Modern Pakistan) Should Be Followed
"As a Muslim who believes in the human rights principles, I was saddened by the scene of destruction wrought by the Taliban on Buddhist temples in Afghanistan. I was grieved by the silence of my Muslim brethren. We cannot afford to see this decadence continue. We will not be able to maintain that we are moderate and middle-roaders if we fail to do our job as middle-roaders. If we fail, the extremists will fill the land with slogans of hate and challenge. For this reason, it is very important, indeed necessary, that a modern Islamic state does not allow itself to be constrained by the conditions imposed upon it by extremist groups that use Islamic teachings to pursue non-Islamic programs." "The vision of Muhammad Ali Jinah [the father of modern Pakistan] of a modern Islamic state is that of a welfare state that draws its inspiration from the principles and teachings of Islam and is founded on democratic foundations that guard and respect the individual, and offer men, women, and children equal rights regardless of their religious beliefs and political views. It is a model that we should emulate."

[1] Prince Talal recently made headlines when he attended a meeting of the Iraqi National Congress (the main Iraqi opposition in exile), in London on July 12, 2002. {{nodeurl-IA10602}}.

[2] Prince Hassan is the president of the Club of Rome, a global think tank dedicated to change free of political, ideological, or business interest, and is the chairman of the Arab Thought Forum (Al Multaqa Al-Fikri), a Palestinian think tank established in Jerusalem in 1977 dedicated to identifying critical issues for analysis and public debate.

[3] Al-Hayat (London), August 27, 2002.

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