- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The king speaks

One day after visiting the Vatican and being assured by Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church’s respect for Muslim people, Jordan’s King Abdullah II came to Washington yesterday and delivered words at Catholic University that Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick predicted “will go down in history.”

In his speech praising Jesus‘ teachings in the Bible and Koran alike, Abdullah, who assumed power the day his father, the late King Hussein, died in 1999, ripped Muslim terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi by name as “ignorant extremists” who do not speak for Islam.

He told the audience that included foreign ambassadors, State Department officials, church leaders and other invited guests that Jordan this summer hosted a major international conference representing 45 nations and all eight traditional schools of Islamic thought.

“They issued a joint statement of accord to help end abuses of our faith,” the king noted, chiefly that “religious edicts cannot be issued by people lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge — like bin Laden and Zarqawi. And they agreed that no one can call another Muslim an apostate, as the extremists do to those who disagree with them.”

Last November, he also pointed out, Jordan started what’s come to be known as the “Amman Message,” articulating Islam’s essential social values of compassion, respect for others, tolerance and acceptance, freedom of religion and rejecting Muslim isolation from the global movement of human society.

“In this effort, I know I am joined by President Bush and many other Western and Islamic leaders,” said the king, who was accompanied yesterday by his wife, Queen Rania. “In the Middle East, in Europe and here in the United States, senior Muslim clerics have spoken out, authoritatively, against terror.”

The ultimate goal, he concluded, “is to take back our religion from the vocal, violent and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam over the last 100 years. They do not speak for Islam any more than a Christian terrorist speaks for Christianity.”

Not forgotten

It was only fitting that President Bush, in a visit to New Orleans that coincided with the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, paid a visit to a parking lot that has become a staging ground for rescue workers.

“This is where all the firefighters from New Orleans and many from other towns around the country, judging from their shirts, are living,” according to the official White House pool report.

While there, it continued, Mr. Bush posed for a picture with New York City firefighters who were standing before a not-so-ordinary New York City firetruck.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan revealed that this same fire engine was donated by the city of New Orleans to New York City in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And now New York has returned the gift, the report said.

A banner hanging on a memorial poster erected next to the truck stated: “God Bless America. Never Forget.”

Army Eggs Benedict

We have to laugh at Mark Silva, White House correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, who accompanied President Bush to flood-ravaged New Orleans this week and revealed that he and fellow scribes “handed off our surplus boxes of breakfasts ready-to-eat — sausage and egg on toast and bagel — to a unit of the 82nd Airborne on the dock who, by the appearance of their reaction, hadn’t eaten since the invasion of Afghanistan.”

Quote of the week

“The comedian Eddie Cantor used to say in all seriousness that every time he saw the 10 Most Wanted list, he thought maybe if we’d made them feel more wanted earlier, they wouldn’t be wanted now.”

First lady Laura Bush, speaking yesterday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on the No Child Left Behind Act and its emphasis on eliminating the achievement gap between white and minority students.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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