Jordan promises to fight against Islamic extremism

Jordan's new prime minister vowed Wednesday to wage a "pre-emptive" war against Islamic extremists, saying his government planned to fight terrorism by reforming religious teaching and granting greater freedom.

Speaking to parliament, Marouf al-Bakhit said the suicide bombers who killed 60 people in three hotels on Nov. 9 had "only made us more determined to move forward in our pre-emptive war against terrorism and the 'takfiri' culture." 'Takfiri' is the ideology of militants who regard their Muslim opponents as infidels.

The triple suicide bombing was the most deadly single terror attack in Jordan's history. Jordanians, who pride themselves on living in a quiet corner of a violent neighborhood, took to the streets in mass protests against al-Qaida in Iraq, which claimed responsibility, and its Jordanian-born leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The 110-member parliament is to meet Sunday to debate a vote of confidence in al-Bakhit's 24-member Cabinet, which the king swore in on Nov. 27. The vote is expected to take place late next week.

The prime minister said his government had a "national and comprehensive strategy" to fight terrorism. They included revising the anti-terrorism law to make it more specific, setting up a crisis management center, undertaking other unspecified steps to protect national institutions, and providing border posts with more staff and modern equipment to detect smugglers and terrorists.

He said the government would also devise a strategy for religious teaching to stress "moderation and tolerance." Muslim clerics would be "retrained and rehabilitated."

When King Abdullah II chose al-Bakhit as prime minister last month, he instructed him to launch an all-out war against Islamic militancy while vigorously pursuing political and economic reform.

Al-Bakhit pledged Wednesday to maintain a delicate balance between wider public freedom and security, saying "democracy without security would be chaotic and security without democracy would be oppressive and restrictive of freedoms."

Al-Bakhit also said Jordan would have closer ties with Arab countries. It would continue to support Middle East peacemaking and a state for the Palestinians, the AP reports.


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