- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

Islam’s turn

“This is our 9/11,” says Merissa Khurma, press attache at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, referring to the triple suicide-bombing attacks that shook Amman.

For Miss Khurma, the terrorists hit home. Her cousin, Mosab Khurma, who grew up across the street from her in Amman, was killed at the Hyatt Hotel, where he and his fiancee were planning their January wedding. The fiancee survived.

Before joining the embassy, Miss Khurma was a research associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, her primary focus terrorism studies and democratization in the Arab world. Earlier this year, this columnist accompanied her to Jordan, where she had arranged for interviews with the country’s leaders on those very topics. The U.S. has few stronger allies in the war against terrorism than Jordan, a Muslim nation best described as “a rose between the thorns.”

Several weeks ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah II paid a visit to Catholic University in Washington, where he ripped into the twisted minds and ideologies of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, citing each by name.

In past days, he’s been more blunt, labeling the terrorist pair and their ilk “insane.”

One might argue that bin Laden and Zarqawi are finally feeling this young king’s heat, albeit Jordan now has paid in blood. In addition to being a staging ground for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the kingdom hosted a major international Islamic conference this summer, attended by 45 nations representing all eight traditional schools of Islamic thought.

“They issued a joint statement of accord to help end abuses of our faith,” the king pointed out, chiefly that “religious edicts cannot be issued by people lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge — like bin Laden and Zarqawi.”

Jordan also issued the “Amman Message,” articulating Islam’s essential values of compassion, respect and acceptance, freedom of religion, and rejection of Muslim isolation from the worldwide human society — which bin Laden and Zarqawi both demand.

“In the Middle East … senior Muslim clerics have spoken out, authoritatively, against terror,” assured the king, who vowed to take back his religion “from the vocal, violent and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam.”

One day after pleading for international assistance in these efforts, King Abdullah yesterday got a much-needed boost from an Arab ally. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced that he’s seen enough positive developments in Iraq to pledge $1 billion toward rebuilding the infrastructure of the war-torn country.

“My fears are much more eased,” the Saudi prince said.

Out of sight

President Bush didn’t want to miss Sunday’s sermon, so he left for church yesterday without his usual flock of White House reporters.

The president and first lady “left for church without your pool, the second time in nine days the travel pool has been left behind in a presidential movement,” according to the pool report (it also happened in Argentina, when the president departed “stag” to dinner.)

Here’s the scoop from yesterday: St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square, changed its early service starting time from 8 a.m. to 7:45, although the White House press office wasn’t notified until “the motorcade was rolling out the South Lawn driveway.”

“Thus,” the report stated, “scribes, photographers and camera people hoofed it across Lafayette Park and … entered the church’s back pews in time to hear the end of the sermon.”

On Saturday morning, meanwhile, the motorcade transporting Mr. Bush back to the White House from his bike ride in Maryland “had moments of chaos,” we learn from another White House report, with the presidential limousine “at one point pulling far ahead of the pool vans, allowing regular traffic in between.”

Spanish mandate

What do you do if you’re a state politician and one of every six young students in your state is deemed English-deficient?

If you’re Florida state Sen. Lesley Miller, the chamber’s minority leader, you introduce legislation requiring those who understand English to learn Spanish, with proposed mandatory instruction to begin in 2007.

“It is unfortunate that some of our legislators need to be reminded that we are an English-speaking nation,” notes Mauro E. Mujica, the Hispanic chairman of D.C.-based U.S. English Inc.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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