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Q: Is the impatience on the part of the people, about the slow pace of reforms, justified? A: I am impatient myself. But we must recognize that the government and parliament have a tough job – they need to fast-track reform while at the same time keeping the process inclusive. I fully appreciate that a truly inclusive, open and comprehensive national reform effort takes time. But I also urge the government and parliament to move as fast as possible, especially on parliamentary elections, because we must maintain the momentum: We can not disappoint the people and risk the credibility of the reform process. We also stand an unprecedented opportunity to set a regional model of peaceful and consensual democratic transformation, and we do not want to miss this chance.

Q: How has Jordan reconciled Islam with secularism and how has this affected its nation building efforts? A: Since its foundation, Jordan, as a country and as a people, has always embraced the true message of Islam – a message of peace, tolerance and respect. Precisely because of its Islamic heritage and identity, Jordan is a unique model of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, a mosaic of Muslims and Christians, all enjoying the same rights and freedoms.

There is no contradiction whatsoever between true Islam and development, modernization, social justice, democracy, respect for the other, or other values that societies generally considered secular uphold. The premise that Islam could be incompatible or may need "reconciling" with modern life is false.

In 2004, I launched the Amman Message, with the main goal to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam. For the first time in history, consensus amongst over 500 of the Islamic world’s leading scholars, including scholars from Turkey, succeeded in declaring what Islam is and what it is not, what actions represent it and what actions do not.

Q: Where are women in the Arab uprisings and in Jordan’s current and future public and political life? A: I am grateful for this question. The role of women in the Arab Spring has yet to be given the credit it deserves. I do not think the movement of Tahrir Square, and all other movements across the region, would have been as compelling and as successful had it not been for the active and courageous participation of women. No lasting positive change can ever be achieved unless women are an integral part of it.

Unfortunately, the number of Jordanian women in public and political life is still below our aspirations. Several legal barriers to gender equality have been removed, and progress has been impressive over the past years. We doubled the quota for female deputies in the Lower House of Parliament ahead of the last elections, in 2010. We have long had women serving as senators and cabinet ministers, and the number of female judges is rising steadily. But the road ahead is still long. I will not belittle the obstacles, but I will not hide my confidence in the future either: fifty-five percent of Jordan’s secondary student population is female. This is one statistic that bodes well for our country’s future.

Q: If Jordan can manage evolution (as opposed to revolution), this could empower other leaders who aim to improve human rights and living standards gradually. Do you think Jordan could be a model also for countries beyond the Arab world? A: Allow me to quote my father, His Majesty the late King Hussein, and say that we strive to set an example – not one that others will necessarily follow, but one that will inspire them to build a better future within their own borders. No country can pretend to have a magic formula for others to follow, especially when it comes to democracy and governance. Each country, in the Arab world and beyond, will set its own course, at its own pace. Change must be home-grown in order to be lasting. Having said that, of course, we hope that others will look at the Jordan story and draw from it whatever lesson they find useful and applicable.

If I was to describe all the efforts and components in Jordan’s reform process in one word, perhaps "dialogue" would be it. Our own accelerated, consensual, evolutionary reform process started with a National Dialogue Committee. And national dialogue to us is not a one-off committee. We want to ingrain it in our political life.

Q: Could Turkey and Jordan – acting more in tandem – have steered developments in the region in the last year more effectively, and do you see a missed opportunity in this sense? A: I am pleased with the level of Turkish-Jordanian cooperation, we maintain close relations and coordination.

Uncertainty has been prevailing in the region over the past year. In such an unpredictable environment, Jordan continues to coordinate with all its neighbors and to act within the framework of Arab consensus.

Q: Has the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations affected the likelihood for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question positively or negatively? A: A few years back, President Clinton told me that the Israelis will only negotiate from a position of strength. And a position of strength is not where they are today, reportedly breaking ranks with the U.S. on Iran, having damaged their relations with Turkey, and facing growing popular resentment and increasing isolation from their Arab neighbors, including the very moderate ones.

But the Israeli government has a choice. It can see, in a changing, region a compelling reason to seriously engage in meaningful peace negotiations to solve all final status issues and realize a two-state solution, or it can continue to dig its heels in on the false pretext that regional change precludes peace negotiations, which could entail serious implications for Israel and its future place in a post-Arab Spring region.

Q: In a previous interview, you referred to Jordan as "the last man standing" in terms of still having a relationship with Israel in the region. What is Jordan’s regional and global role in reaching peace between Israel and the Palestinians? What pressures do you face within your country with regards to relations with Israel? A: Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and achieving the two-state solution is a national interest for Jordan, and it is in the best interest of the entire region and the world. Jordan has never spared any efforts to achieve peace and will always continue to work for a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I often say that the benefit of peace is peace. To us, peace always was and remains a strategic choice. But popular frustration at Israeli policies is at a peak across the region, and even traditionally moderate parties and groups are starting to question whether seeking or keeping peace with Israel makes sense any more.

Q: Without Middle East Peace, can the Arab Spring bring about regimes that are accountable to their people on the basis of good governance? A: Peace is a pre-requisite for stability and development, and these two are essential to democracy and good governance. Without peace, the region’s full potential will not be realised. Our modern history is a testament to this fact.


//Petra// A SH//R Q//
3/3/2012 - 01:53:18 PM

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