1998 Speech

Prince Bandar's address at the American Muslim Council national convention in Arlington, Northern Virginia

HRH Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz
Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States of America
Address to the National Convention of the American Muslim Council
Arlington, Virginia
June 27, 1998
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Distinguished Guests:

Greetings, and God's blessing be upon you.
It gives me great pleasure to be with you this evening, and to extend my best wishes to this gathering, which is responding to the call of the Muslim world, shouldering the responsibility of addressing the concerns of the American Muslim community, defending its interests, and working for its enhancement.

The important and effective role that you and the American Muslim Council are undertaking to make your voice heard, and your concerns brought to the attention of officials, by means of this conference, gives a good impression of sound planning that serves the interests of the Muslim community in the United States, which is unified by the bonds of faith. God Almighty said: "Oh, Mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other); verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you and is well acquainted (with all things)."

This is Islam, the religion of equality which does not discriminate among people because of their race or color but only through piety.

Islamic civilization has been exposed to deliberate distortion, especially in this age, but in spite of this, it has distinguished itself by its openness to other civilizations, motivated by confidence in its own unique values and ideals, and the strong characteristics that prevent it from merging into other cultures.

On the basis of this self-confidence and sense of historic responsibility, Islamic civilization has interacted with other civilizations, taking whatever it considered suitable without its foundation being shaken, or its standards undermined by other philosophies or creeds.

Brothers and Sisters:

Your responsibility to propagate this religion is immense. As we all know, the reason why people have embraced Islam in great numbers is because Islamic propagation has been conducted in a wise manner and through sound exhortation, adapting Islamic principles to the realities, in both word and deeds, with the result that each individual Muslim represents an institution for propagation of this great religion; this was important at a time when the means of communication among nations and peoples were scarce. The light of Islam dawned in far corners of the earth, thanks to, for example, a handful of merchants who were forced by economic hardships to leave their homelands to seek a better life. People were attracted to the principles, values and conduct they expounded and the honesty and dedication they displayed in the way they treated others. This paved the way for many to understand the essence of Islam and its humanitarian principles which are in keeping with the nature of humanity.

My friends:

Islam came with its own comprehensive legislation with full respect for other religions, prohibiting any affliction, harm or insult to these religions and to other people, no matter their creed. In Islam there is no room for extremism or terrorism, or for any action that harms Mankind. That is why by virtue of our religion we are obligated to respect the laws of the countries in which we live, and not endanger the security of these countries. Islam recognizes all religions revealed by God. That is why Islam calls for moderation in disputes with non-Muslims.

God Almighty instructed Moses and Aaron to have discussions with the Pharaoh when he claimed to be God Himself and to speak with him in a soft tone. God Almighty said: "Go, both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds. But speak to him mildly. Perchance he may take warning or fear God."

Such was the heavenly order to be polite when addressing rulers of other countries even when they are infidels, for being moderate in propagating helps to gain acceptance. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the best of human beings, was addressed by God as follows: "Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee."

Almighty God also prohibits insulting non-believers, so that they do not end up unknowingly insulting God. Almighty God said: "Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance." For every action there is usually an equal reaction. Based on this, violence and extremism in the name of Islam are forbidden, because Muslims may be subjected to the same measures around the world.

God Almighty said: "Let there be no compulsion in religion."

God Almighty also said: "Invite all to the way of the Lord, with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious; for thy Lord knoweth best, who has strayed from his Path and who has received Guidance."

God Almighty, therefore, has instructed us not to argue with the People of the Book, except in ways that are best and more understandable, saying: "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)." The best way, therefore, to serve the objectives of the Islamic cause is for the individual Muslim to be a model to be emulated in terms of his attitude towards others, whether he is a businessman, a government employee or a common laborer. He should implement the teachings of Islam and practice them in his daily life. When asked about the ethics of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Aisha (may God be pleased with her) responded: "His ethics personify the Qur'an."

My dear friends:

Refrain from all sectarian differences and utilize arbitration only by the Qur'an and the sayings of the Prophet. In the Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "There is no merit of an Arab over an non-Arab, save for his piety." God Almighty said: "And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves." If you join hands and cooperate amongst yourselves, you will gain respect from others, your leverage will be recognized, and your interests and demands will be met.

Let us be a model to others with our Islamic ethics. Let us uphold our solidarity, even as a minority in this country. Let us also abandon our differences and our conflicts and our preoccupation with ethnicity and sectarianism, and highlight instead our Islamic identity as active participants in American society.

Finally I wish all of you a pleasant stay and successful conference, and I pray that God Almighty grant the American Muslim Council continued progress and success in helping the American Muslim community and taking care of its affairs. And you can count on our support in that endeavor.

Thank you.