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Saturday, June 4, 2005

In an interview with The Today Show, Queen Rania: “It is our job to give women the freedom of choice”

...And tell me, you haven't been back to the states for two years.
Queen Rania: Just under two years, and during that time I had my baby.

Your fourth.

Queen Rania: He's my fourth and he's four months old today, so it's been an eventful year for me.

It's hard to believe that you and your husband, King Abdullah of Jordan, took the throne six years ago. What, in retrospect, has been the most challenging part for you as queen?

Queen Rania: Well you know, it's been six years, as you say, but it really feels like 20. So much has happened in the world ever since. We had early on the uprising in Palestine, and then there was 9/11 as you know, and then there was the war in Iraq. But throughout that time I think Jordan remained very steadfast in its progress. At the very beginning my husband defined his vision for Jordan. He
wanted economic, political and social reform for our country; he wanted to overhaul the educational system. He wanted to have more empowerment for women, and a lot of progress has been achieved during that time.

Did you enjoy hosting the first lady of the United States at the World Economic Forum?

Queen Rania: It was great. She carries a lot of goodwill wherever she goes, and I think having her there, bringing the American point of view to our part of the world, and showing that she really cares and that she's interested, resonated really well in our part of the world.

She discussed equal rights or equal opportunities for women and how an important role for women is absolutely essential to a vibrant democracy, didn't she?

Queen Rania: Absolutely, and that is something we completely agree on. You know, it's crucial for us to make sure that our women are as active in society as they can be, and today Jordanian women are definitely more active then they were, say, six years ago. So progress is being made, but we're still not there yet. There are still a lot of cultural stereotypes that have to be changed.

Are they stereotypes though, or are there some women who don't want to progress? Who'd rather stay in more traditional roles, who feel very strongly about that?

Queen Rania: If some women feel that way then that's their choice, but our job is to give them that choice. So if a woman wants to get out and work and wants to be active, whether it's on the political level or in the private sector, she should have the opportunity to do that.

Your country, your husband, King Abdullah, and you have really been a bridge between the U.S. and much of the Arab world. And yet there still remains so much anti-American sentiment. At least it appears that way. What things do you think should be done or could be done to reduce the vitriol, anger and resentment that many Arabs feel towards the United States.

Queen Rania: I think the first step would be to understand why those feelings exist. And when we say to understand why, that doesn't mean that we justify them or think that they are right. So for example, people think in the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the United States favors Israel over the Palestinians. They feel that the United States