by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS — Among the 193 Presidential and Ministerial speeches being made during the UN General Assembly debate, most will present politically pedantic and often droning restatements of the obvious; that war, terrorism, poverty and the refugees crisis lapping at Europe’s shores and hinterland are among the absolute ills affecting the international community. The new and revamped Sustainable Development Goals are then placed on the altar of global diplomacy as the penultimate offering to save the world.
Few diplomats really make statesmanlike speeches; I suppose it’s because there are so many politicians and so few statesmen. Jordan’s King is among this rare group of statesmen.
King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan presented a stunningly poignant and brilliant address before the UN.
Chastising what he calls the “serious threat from the khawarej, the outlaws of Islam that operate globally today,” the King stresses “these outlaw gangs use suspicion and ignorance to expand their own power. Worse still is the free hand they grant themselves to distort the word of God to justify the most atrocious crimes.”
King Abdullah asks rhetorically, “Can we tolerate a future where mass murder, public beheadings, kidnappings and slavery are common practice? Where persecution of communities is law? Where humanity’s cultural treasures, preserved for thousands of years, are systematically destroyed?”
“I’ve called this crisis a third world war and I believe we must respond with equal intensity,” the Jordanian Monarch retorted. Yet he added, “The more important war is the one we wage on the battlegrounds of the heart, soul and mind.”
Thus a key and respected Arab state ruler is not just calling for a counteroffensive with military means but also with what can be called a “hearts and minds” campaign.
King Abdullah is very clear about the threat,”when we examine the motives of these outlaws, the khawarej, ” they come down to, ” power and control: of people, of money, of land.”
The Monarch added searingly, “They use religion as a mask. Is there a worse crime than twisting God’s word to promote your own interests?”
Looking at the wider religious picture, King Abdullah advises, “In the global Muslim community, 1.7 billion of good men and women, one quarter of humanity, today’s outlaw gangs are nothing but a drop in the ocean. But a drop of venom can poison a well.”
He called on all Muslims to “protect the purity of our faith” …as Muslims this is our fight, and our duty.”
Abdullah’s wider call admonished bystanders, “Extremists rely on the apathy of moderates.”
Interestingly, despite being a military man educated at Britain’s Sandhurst, the Monarch did not use the word terrorism in describing movements such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This may be part of his wider effort to marginalize the publicity for Islamic radicalism rather than overstating its threat.
Naturally in a country like Jordan being buffeted by waves of refugees from neighboring Syria, the dangers of a spreading conflict are equal to the humanitarian burden the Hashemite Kingdom bears; today Syrian refugees constitute 20 percent of Jordan’s population.
Though Jordan (along with Lebanon and Turkey) have been taking the overwhelming numbers of fleeing Syrians, there’s a serious shortfall in international aid to help with the humanitarian heavy lifting. Jordan expects to be hosting one million refugees by the end of this year.
Speaking separately to correspondents, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Judeh advised, that the large numbers of people fleeing the Syrian civil war into Jordan and Lebanon, are “prompting a sense of urgency” in the region. He warned his country has “reached a saturation point,” when it comes to offering shelter and aid to refugees.
Despite a strong and committed UN presence in Jordan, King Abdullah conceded “we are still facing huge shortfalls, cuts and threats to vital UN programs and agencies, including UNRWA, UNHCR and WFP.”
The Amman government is working closely with the European Union to assist in the growing humanitarian burden. The EU is currently the biggest donor to the aid effort.
Until Syrians agree on a long overdue political settlement ending the civl war, the refugee crisis throughout the Middle East and into Europe will show no signs of abating.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).