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Oprah: You were recently here in New York, and as I understand it, you went to Ground Zero with Mayor Giuliani. What was that like?
Queen Rania: I think for the past couple of weeks we've all been struggling with what happened on September 11, trying to understand it, trying to make sense of it. We've all been glued to our televisions trying to comprehend what happened. It really made a difference to me when I was actually there, when I went to Washington and New York, and visited some of the family centers.
I had the opportunity to speak to some of the families of the victims, some of the children who have been orphaned and some of the workers who had been working day in and day out. I began to really understand and appreciate the enormity of the tragedy, and the extent of it, and just how many people were affected by it. It was very, very difficult for me, but I was very inspired by the resolve and the strength of the people that I saw.
Oprah: I've heard you say that as we attempt to fight this war against terrorism, whether it is militarily, diplomatically, through other resources, that this is an opportunity for the United States to perhaps reach out to other disenfranchised countries. Is that true?
Queen Rania: Absolutely. I think that this is a new chapter in human dialogue between the United States and the rest of the world and between countries all over the world. For the first time in history, we all have a combined objective. We all have this common enemy, terrorism. We all need to draw our resources together and fight the common war, each [country] in its own area of expertise, whether it's through intelligence, militarily or economically. It's very important that we all come together on this issue and really fight this war together.
Oprah: When this first happened on September 11, I think it came as a shock to so many of us that other people in the world hated us so much. Can you help explain that to us?
Queen Rania: I think it's very important that you realize that for the majority of Muslims, they do not hate Americans. They do not hate the American way of life. In fact, many countries look at the American model as one that needs to be replicated, one that they aspire to achieve.
We are talking about a minority of people who feel that they have been unjustly treated by the United States. Some of them feel that U.S. foreign policy might have been partial and not completely fair to all parties involved, and they wanted their voice to be heard. Unfortunately, the means that they have used are ones that are condemned all over the Arab world.
We do not approve of these terrorist acts or any gruesome activities like the ones we saw on September 11. The American people have to realize that the whole world is with them, they feel with them. They are not hated by the rest of the world. Some people feel unfairly treated, but I think that dialogue is the way to understand each other and to reach out to each other.
Oprah: What we're trying to do on this show today is to bring about an understanding of what it's like to be Muslim in the world, and what is Islam. I think there's a lot of confusion. You're very westernized, and then we see women wearing the hoods, the burqas and the hijabs. What makes one acceptable, and the other not? Are you accepted in your country not wearing the scarves? What does the scarf represent?
Queen Rania: I'd really like to commend you for having Islam as the subject of your show. I think this is the right time to reach out and have this open, ongoing dialogue about different religions.
[Just] like in Christianity, there are different interpretations of Islam, and there are different degrees of conservatism. It's a personal choice. Some people are more conservative than others. The important thing is the spirit of Islam. That is all about tolerance, about doing good, diversity, quality, and human dignity.
The fact that Islam is very tolerant means that it doesn't impose anything on other people. You are supposed to behave in a certain way, or dress in a certain way out of conviction, not because somebody imposes their own ideology on you. I believe one's relationship with God, and how one chooses to practice religion, is an intensely personal choice.
Oprah: So you as an individual choose whether or not you want to be robed or not robed, or wear your head covered or not? That's not imposed upon you by your religion?
Queen Rania: In our country, that is what we believe. We give women the choice to wear the headscarf or not. It's a personal choice. As I said, it is not the state that is supposed to impose on individuals what they believe in. That is their own personal choice.
Oprah: Are you a practicing Muslim?
Queen Rania: Yes, very much so. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. We fast the holy month of Ramadan, which is, I guess, equivalent to Lent in Christianity. We are meant to give to charity. Once in our lifetime, we have to make a pilgrimage to the holy site of Mecca. These are the basic principles and practices of Islam. But more importantly, Islam is about spiritual fulfillment, about morals, about trying to purify your soul. That is something that has to be very much emphasized.
Oprah: What is life like for Muslim women in Jordan? I think we all have a misinterpretation that the women wearing the robes are dominated by men, that the women don't have a voice of their own. Is any part of that true?
Queen Rania: In Jordan, women lead a very free life. We find the level of education for men and women in Jordan is equal. We have women who participate in the business sector, in government, in the armed forces, in the police force, women judges. They're very much free to choose what kind of life they want to lead. The lives that they lead here are very similar to those that you see in other countries in the world.
That is not to say that they don't have challenges, but I think that the challenges that women face in Jordan are very similar to those that you see in other countries in the world, particularly developing countries. The obstacles that they face are more social or cultural hindrances. Women in our part of the world have to be encouraged to be more confident, to voice their concerns, to fight for their legal rights, and to do what the women in the States and in Europe did: try to gain their rights by voicing their concerns and fighting for them.
Oprah: One of the things that we have been horrified by in the U.S., and I've actually done several shows about here, are honor killings. I know you have campaigned against honor killings, the Jordanian parliament however, as I understand it, has rejected laws that would treat those crimes as seriously as other homicides. Where does that stand now?
Queen Rania: It's very important for me to clarify that honor kilings are not in any way condoned or accepted in Islam. They are, in fact, un-Islamic. These are more cultural and social aspects that we have to deal with here.
What we're looking to do here in Jordan, and our voices have been heard and many people have been rallying, is to try to explain the whole issue of honor killings, and to try to explain where Islam stands [on] this issue. Once we have this open dialogue and we reach to the grassroots where people can understand this issue, we are hoping through democratic process to change these laws that we have in Jordan.
The problem was the fact that people didn't understand what honor killings were and how often they were happening and all the dimensions of the issue. We need more public awareness about the issue and that's what we're doing right now. It's only a matter of time before these laws that you're referring to are going to be changed.
Oprah: Newsweek magazine reported that there are some Muslim fundamentalists that see you as a threat. They've said, 'She is attacking our ancient values, tearing at our social fabrics as a member of our moderate Muslim brotherhood.' How do you respond to that?
Queen Rania: You find fundamentalists and extremism in every religion and these are the people on the fringes. They are expressing their own point of view, a personal point of view. I believe in what I am doing. It's my personal choice. I feel that people of my country accept me the way that I am, and I hope the rest of the world will see it that way. I cannot really answer to these kinds of things because everybody is entitled to his own opinion.
Oprah: Do you feel that you represent a large portion of the Arab world in terms of women being progressive, forward-looking, being smart, thinking for themselves?
Queen Rania: There is a large portion of women who are like that. As I said earlier, I think that the challenges that women face in our part of the world are more related to some social and cultural constraints. These are the issues that we need to deal with. Religion provides equality for women. Islam views women as full and equal partners to men, so [women's] rights are guaranteed by Islam. It's up to us to try to make use of these rights, to try to voice our concerns and make sure that we achieve our full rights.
Oprah: So anything that we see that doesn't represent what you're saying is a distortion of Islam, correct?
Queen Rania: Absolutely. I think that is what extremism is. Extremists are on the fringes of religion. By nature, Islam and the Qur'an, which is the holy book in our religion, came to apply to humankind at any point in history, which means it is open to interpretation. I feel that a lot of these extremists have taken this as a way to justify and to twist the facts in Islam to justify their own actions and their own beliefs, and in many cases to fulfill their own political agendas.
Oprah: I thank you so much for being here to clarify and to bring about a greater understanding of what Islam means and what it's like to be a Muslim woman. Thank you so much, your majesty.
Queen Rania: Not at all. Thank you, Oprah.