In an interview with L'Express, Queen Rania asserts need to respect religions

January 21, 2015

“I am offended and hurt by the lack of respect for our beliefs”

“More cartoons of this sort only hurt, deepen mistrust and incite prejudice, at a time when we should be promoting tolerance and understanding”

“I have heard since the attacks echoing grievances from my region about double standards when it comes to freedom of speech”

"To equate an entire religion and its followers with the actions of a minority is just wrong. To blame Islam for their actions is prejudice”

“1.6 billion Muslims cannot bear collective responsibility for the actions of this minority who claim to share their faith”

“I am afraid we are seeing increasing suspicion and negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims in the West”

“Modernity means progress. It does not mean letting go of our identity in blind imitation of other cultures”

“The impact of the Syrian crisis is much greater than our capacity to cope”

“Jordan has always been, and will always be, a sanctuary for those fleeing insecurity and danger”

“One of the greatest dangers our world faces today is increased political polarization –on the one hand- and religious radicalization on the other”

In an interview with the French magazine L'Express, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah asserted that everyone must show respect for the beliefs of every religion out of acknowledgement for our common humanity. Reacting to the publication by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Her Majesty said she was offended and hurt by the lack of respect for the beliefs of Muslims and Islam. Queen Rania added that it was simply wrong to blame 1.6 billion Muslims for the actions of a minority who claim to share their faith.

“To equate an entire religion and its followers with the actions of a minority is just wrong. To blame Islam for their actions is prejudice. 1.6 billion Muslims cannot bear collective responsibility for the actions of this minority who claim to share their faith.”

Her Majesty explained that respecting all prophets was a main tenet of Islam, citing the example of a recent ban in some Arab countries of the film “Exodus: Gods and Kings” because it was deemed as not showing enough respect to the stature and sanctity of the Prophet Moses. “In Islam, it is simply unacceptable to depict any prophet (not just Prophet Mohammad PBUH) through any medium…and in any context…Respecting prophets is a main tenet of our faith.”

“More cartoons of this sort only hurt, deepen mistrust and incite prejudice, at a time when we should be promoting tolerance and understanding,” the Queen stated. “As a Muslim, I am against these cartoons and I am offended and hurt by the lack of respect for our beliefs.”

When asked about her reaction to the debate surrounding the controversial publication of caricatures, Queen Rania said: “I have heard since the attacks echoing grievances from my region about double standards when it comes to freedom of speech. Why is it considered freedom of speech when the subject has to do with Islam, but taboo and a red line when the issue is different?”

The Queen went on to explain that there must be a balance to be found between freedom of expression and protecting the dignity and sanctity of religion, which should be driven by respect and empathy, rather than fear.

Referring to acts of violence committed in the name of Islam, Queen Rania nonetheless insisted that violence should never be the response. “Let me be clear, the response should never be violence. Never. People, whether Muslims or others, have every right to be offended, to voice their rejection, to condemn, to criticize, to protest, but to do so peacefully and respectfully.”

In response to a question about Her Majesty's participation in the Paris Unity March, Queen Rania explained that people from the Middle East region knew only too well the sense of loss that the French people were feeling “because, sadly, it is a daily and heartbreaking reality in so many parts of the Arab world, from Syria to Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and elsewhere. And even though it has been over nine years, no one in Jordan will ever forget the Amman bombings. I certainly won’t. We lost 60 innocent lives that tragic day.” Her Majesty added, “Extremist groups have taken thousands upon thousands more innocent lives. In fact, Muslims are their primary victims.”

Queen Rania further added that France “has stood by us in challenging times, and at different junctures in history, not least of all in the French Parliament’s honorable stance of recognizing the Palestinian state.”

Her Majesty underlined the importance of the demonstration’s message of global unity against the ideology of hate, adding that the world is up against a fight between moderates and extremists.
Asked how she sees the Muslim presence in Western countries, the Queen noted that “it is a reality, and one that presents an opportunity. More and more, I am afraid we are seeing increasing suspicion and negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims in the West.”

Queen Rania went on to explain “Muslims aren’t all that different. We want the same things, we love our children and want the best for them, we care for our neighbors, we work hard, and we look forward to weekends! Personal experiences and interactions can help blur the divisive lines of 'us and them'.”

Her Majesty emphasized that while minority groups should interact and contribute positively to their surrounding environment, countries must do the hard work of integrating minorities with full equality and respect for their culture and traditions.

“That our societies have become a diverse amalgam of different religions, ethnicities and cultures is a reality we can never escape in our globalized world- nations who embrace this reality and try to achieve justice and balance are more likely to live in social harmony.”

Regarding European Muslims’ role in giving a new definition of the relationship between faith and modernity, as well as faith and democracy, Her Majesty said, “I have never felt that there is a contradiction between faith and modernity, and faith is certainly not anti-democracy. In fact I think that many of the values of our faith - like equality, tolerance, forgiveness, dialogue, peace, and a reverence for learning, progress, hard work - would go a long way in addressing some of the challenges we face in the Arab world today.”

“For me, modernity means progress. It does not mean letting go of our identity in blind imitation of other cultures. It means being engaged with and connected and open to the rest of the world. That does not come at the expense of religion or identity. I think Jordan is an example of a country in the Middle East that is firmly rooted in our Arab and Muslim identity and yet we fully embrace modernity.”

Commenting on the participation of several countries that support extremist groups in the Paris Unity March, Her Majesty explained, “It is not for me to comment on the policies of other countries, but, generally speaking, the threat which the Middle East as a region urgently needs to address is that of extremism, and I do not only mean religious extremism but political radicalization as well. Our goal is to ensure safety and security for our people against the violent actions of extremists AND defend the true image and values that our religion stands for and to not allow religious extremists to dominate the narrative on Islam.”

Queen Rania also talked about the impact on Jordan of the ongoing conflict in Syria. “Over the past few years, it has been very sad watching the alarming destruction of Syria and the heartbreaking humanitarian tragedy there. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and many more displaced. And yet despite the shocking facts, I fear that the world is quickly losing sight of both the human suffering in Syria, and the massive refugee burden on host countries like Jordan and Lebanon.”

She added, “Jordan has felt the spillover effects of the conflict. Today we are hosting over 1.3 million Syrians, that is equivalent to 20% of our population. It’s as if the entire population of Belgium moved into France. This is a tremendous burden on a country like Jordan, socially, economically and even on a security level.”
“Jordan has always been, and will always be, a sanctuary for those fleeing insecurity and danger. But the impact of the Syrian crisis is much greater than our capacity to cope. Of course, there have been generous contributions from donors, and France has been very supportive, but a lot more still needs to be raised to support UN and other relief agencies in host countries.” Queen Rania told L'Express.

With regard to the Palestinian issue and the stalemate in negotiations between the two sides, Queen Rania said that “one of the greatest dangers our world faces today is increased political polarization –on the one hand- and religious radicalization on the other. And strangely, they feed into one another. Many years ago, there were many who believed and made it their life’s mission to fight for a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian issue. We have watched in dismay as their numbers dwindled over the years until they were pushed to the margins, with the more radical views dominating the mainstream. This kind of dynamic may help bring about short term political victories, but adopting views that incite and feed people’s fears, and do not acknowledge the humanity and rights of an entire people cannot be in the long term strategic interest of any nation.”

Her Majesty stressed that “The two-state solution is the only solution. Otherwise, the alternative is continued suffering. If both parties don’t return to the negotiating table, and soon, to end the conflict permanently and justly, we will be talking about a fifth, sixth and seventh war on Gaza.”

Queen Rania also touched on the pivotal role women can play to contribute to peace in all conflicts. “Too many mothers have lost sons and daughters to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Too many girls have witnessed fathers and brothers beaten, imprisoned, or exiled. Palestinian and Israeli women have been working together for years to bring an end to the conflict. What these grassroots initiatives are calling for is a prosperous future for their children, for themselves. Through dialogue, visits, collaboration, and demonstrations, these women are building peace together. “

For a transcript of the interview, please go to:
http://www.queenrania.jo/media/interviews/her-majesty-queen-rania-al-abdullahs-interview-french-publication-lexpress