Saturday, October 01, 2005

Jordanian prince speaks at William and Mary

It is an interesting speech. Although it seems that Hassan is certainly moderate compared to almost all other Arabs, this "moderation" still would be considered extreme if a mirror of these views were expressed by Israelis.

His interest in unity for Muslims happens to be shared by Hamas and Al Qaeda, although I'm sure his vision is more secular. He states offhandedly that he is for Palestinian "right of return" which means the destruction of Israel. He frankly speaks about Arab problems but his solutions do not include the possibility of Jews having their own land in a final Middle East solution. And he seems to have no problem ignoring Jordan's history of killing thousands of Palestinian Arabs.

But he's moderate enough to get an honorary doctorate!
WILLIAMSBURG -- With humor and urgency, former Jordanian Crown Prince El Hassan bin Talal pushed for unity in the world's Arab and Islamic regions Friday, in an address at the College of William and Mary's Commonwealth Auditorium.

He offered Mecca, Saudi Arabia, not only as a place of Islamic ritual and pilgrimage but as a place where Islamic nations could gather in an annual conference - "a conference on everything from stem cell research to opposition to terror," El Hassan said.

"I don't want to be told by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi how to think," he said, as a moderate or centrist who feels more like a radical these days. He referred to the leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist organization.

"Real conversations have to develop between Arabs and Arabs, Arabs and Muslims, Sunni and Shia - 'Sunny Muslims' - but maybe I just belong to the Cloudy Muslims."

El Hassan was the brother and closest adviser to Jordan's late King Hussein. He's a veteran advocate for Middle East peace and cooperation among all faiths and cultures. He also helps lead humanitarian organizations like the World Conference on Religion and Peace and the International Crisis Group.

In the packed auditorium, the spirited prince fielded questions on the effects of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on Jordan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We're good hosts to refugees," he said of Jordan. There are more than 250,000 Iraqis now in Jordan, he said, including the megarich, the middle class - academics and doctors who fled persecution by insurgents - and the unemployed. "The threat of the movement of extremism is not so far beneath the surface. We happen to be Iraq's neighbor."

He hoped for an Arab capital in part of a greater Jerusalem - an international city like Brussels, Belgium, was for the Flemish.

It's perhaps a pipe dream, he said, but he would extend a right of return to Palestinians. But he also wondered whether Jews might have the right to return to other Arab lands.

He said, "We're really all hypocrites in our part of the world - Israel and all the Arab communities included. It's about time to smell the coffee."

Old Dominion University will give El Hassan an honorary doctorate Monday.