King Abdullah II of Jordan quoted from the Bible and the Koran in a brief speech to a lunchtime crowd of 2,000 mostly evangelical Christians yesterday, invoking “our Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage” and urging moderates of the three great religions to unite.
“At this point in history, our service to God, our countries and our peoples demands that we confront extremism in its myriad forms,” he told listeners at the annual National Prayer Breakfast luncheon at the Washington Hilton.
“To overcome this common foe, we must explore the values that unite us, rather than exaggerating the misunderstandings that divide us.”
The king got an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, and Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, called Abdullah “a great example of unity for us.” Praying in the name of Jesus Christ, a name otherwise hardly mentioned by anyone else at the event sponsored by evangelical Christians, Mr. Nelson asked God for “a double portion” of the spirit of the late Jordanian King Hussein to rest upon Abdullah, his son.
The king reciprocated with a speech that included six verses from the New Testament, eight from the Koran, two from the Old Testament and remarks from Martin Luther King.
Terrorist attacks, he said, are “an attack upon civilization,” not a “clash of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam. Terrorist groups “do not preach the Islam of the Koran or of the prophet Muhammad. Theirs is a repugnant political ideology which violates the principles and statutes of traditional Islamic law.”
Adherents of this ideology “want nothing more than to pit us against each other, denying all that we have in common,” he said. “We must therefore heed the words of the New Testament: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,’” citing Romans 12:21.
The king criticized the targeting of Christian churches in Iraq by insurgents and the “needless desecration and injury of Islamic sensibilities” by a series of cartoons that have appeared in several European newspapers.
Earlier yesterday, the king gave the benediction at the National Prayer Breakfast attended by 3,600 guests; the first Muslim head of state to be given such a role.
After yesterday’s lunch, the king met privately with 23 religious leaders for an hour. Joseph Lumbard, the king’s interfaith adviser and a convert to Islam from the Episcopal Church, called the meeting “very, very, very friendly.”
Christian leaders included the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals; the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.; Richard Mouw, the president of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.; Don Argue, president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash.; and Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation, in Manhattan.
Mr. Cizik said the rabbi reminded them that Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, had threatened to assassinate Abdullah.
“The king’s message of finding common ground resonated,” Mr. Cizik said. “I think it’s important we evangelicals get the message out that we support this man. The king’s courage was acknowledged by all in the room.”