Recent Articles | About Authors | About the Syndicate | Archives

To receive a plain text copy of this article by email, see info at the bottom of this page.

Real Answers™
Copyright: ©2007 Rusty Wright
600 words


By: Rusty Wright

Amman, Jordan – The Al Qaeda bomb blast came shortly after the prominent senator left the Hyatt hotel.  He rushed back to encounter victims, wedding party celebrants.

As Akel Biltaji described his 2005 experience to me recently, we sat in the lobby of that same Hyatt in Amman.  The tragedy’s likely cause?  Jordan, a predominantly Muslim nation, had dared to stand against radical terrorism.  Today, tight hotel security dissuades such incursions. 

It’s become popular in the West to deny, ignore, or downplay Muslim opposition to terror.  But Jordan has taken a leading role among Middle Eastern nations in renouncing extremism. 

The society is diverse.  Women in traditional Muslim head coverings blend with people in Western attire, some wearing crosses.  Jordan’s king rides a Harley.  His new prep school favors critical thinking over traditional rote learning.  There are beaches without burkahs.

Jordan has become a fascinating experiment in religious tolerance or “acceptance,” as King Abdullah prefers.  I sensed this emphasis when I first met Biltaji, a devout Muslim.  He was Jordan’s Minister of Tourism then, encouraging Americans at a Christian convention to visit Jordan – home of many famous biblical sites.  He partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.  Born in Gaza and educated at Jordan’s American Friends Schools, he displays a warm, affable spirit and seems to connect well with members of many faiths.

I ran into him in Washington, DC, a few years later.  He was there with King Abdullah, who addressed a luncheon gathering after the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast.  The King emphasized that Christians, Jews and Muslims alike “revile aggression against innocents – whatever their land or religion.” He explained, “Jordan launched a religious initiative to reaffirm traditional moderate Islam … [and] to expose and isolate extremism….” 

At a recent press briefing in Amman, Biltaji presented local Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders who displayed mutual respect and camaraderie.  One panelist, Dr. Nabeeh Abbassi, heads the Jordan Baptist Convention, affiliated with the US Southern Baptists.  Abbassi graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Both Muslim and Christian students attend Jordan Baptist schools.  One new school has been conceived at the invitation of a Muslim government leader who wants a Christian presence in the city.  Abbassi hopes to build a “peace center” in cooperation with prominent American pastor Rick Warren.

Jordanian born, Abbassi has many Muslim friends.  He recognizes differences between their beliefs and his, and says of his conservative Muslim neighbors, “We discuss religion with respect; we love one another.”

I asked Akel Biltaji what makes him so comfortable interacting with people of different faiths.  His parents instilled in him compassion and civic awareness.  During his Friends (Quaker) high school days, young Akel enjoyed singing in an Anglican choir – with parental approval.  Studying comparative religions helped him understand different belief systems.  Committed to his own faith, he seems especially appreciative of Jesus.  Biltaji values forgiveness highly.  He blends respect, tact, grace, humor, and thoughtfulness as he discusses his convictions with non-Muslims.

Hmmm.  Reminds me of some biblical advice about dealing with those with whom you differ:  “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

King Abdullah likes to remind people that Jordan is “between Iraq and a hard place.”  Fleeing Iraqis have flooded in, severely straining Jordan’s resources.  This nation with rich history faces many challenges.  Westerners who criticize Muslims for “never condemning Islamic extremism” would do well to consider Jordan’s denunciation of religious violence and its experiment in social acceptance.


Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer with who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.


"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

Request this article:
To instantly receive a plain text copy of this article by email, enter your publication title, city and state, and email address, then retype the article number (shown in bold below). Then click the "Send It" button once.
Fields marked (*) are required

Publication Title: *
City & State: *
Email: *
Requested Article: *
(Type rw63.txt in this field)

back to top

© The Amy Foundation 2006 Privacy Statement