John McCaslin

"This is our 9/11," says Merissa Khurma, press attache at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, referring to the triple suicide-bombing attacks that shook Amman.

For Khurma, the terrorists hit home. Her cousin, Mosab Khurma, who grew up across the street from her in Amman, was killed at the Hyatt Hotel, where he and his fiancee were planning their January wedding. The fiancee survived.

Before joining the embassy, Khurma was a research associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, her primary focus terrorism studies and democratization in the Arab world. Earlier this year, this columnist accompanied her to Jordan, where she had arranged for interviews with the country's leaders on those very topics. The U.S. has few stronger allies in the war against terrorism than Jordan, a Muslim nation best described as "a rose between the thorns."

Several weeks ago, Jordan's King Abdullah II paid a visit to Catholic University in Washington, where he ripped into the twisted minds and ideologies of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, citing each by name.

In past days, he's been more blunt, labeling the terrorist pair and their ilk "insane."

One might argue that bin Laden and Zarqawi are finally feeling this young king's heat, albeit Jordan now has paid in blood. In addition to being a staging ground for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the kingdom hosted a major international Islamic conference this summer, attended by 45 nations representing all eight traditional schools of Islamic thought.

"They issued a joint statement of accord to help end abuses of our faith," the king pointed out, chiefly that "religious edicts cannot be issued by people lacking the proper qualifications and religious knowledge - like bin Laden and Zarqawi."

Jordan also issued the "Amman Message," articulating Islam's essential values of compassion, respect and acceptance, freedom of religion, and rejection of Muslim isolation from the worldwide human society - which bin Laden and Zarqawi both demand.

"In the Middle East . . . senior Muslim clerics have spoken out, authoritatively, against terror," assured the king, who vowed to take back his religion "from the vocal, violent and ignorant extremists who have tried to hijack Islam."

One day after pleading for international assistance in these efforts, King Abdullah yesterday got a much-needed boost from an Arab ally. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced that he's seen enough positive developments in Iraq to pledge $1 billion toward rebuilding the infrastructure of the war-torn country.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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