Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Human Rights and Human Responsibilities: Closing Remarks by Abdul Salam Majali

These remarks were delivered at the close of the symposium "Human Rights and Human Responsibilities in the Age of Terrorism," April 1, 2005, by Abdul Salam Majali, former prime minister of Jordan.

I would like to add in my simple way that I heard Mr. Kennedy when he was a President. He said to the troops and to the public, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." This is the thing between human rights and human responsibility.

Personally, I cannot see how any human rights alone can be implemented without, on the other side, some responsibility. If my human rights are abused, it has to be inflicted by somebody, whether it's a person or the state. There should be a responsibility that the state not to do this or that the other chap not do this to me. I cannot see anything wrong with the word responsibility, because, if we are not responsible, the world is going to be in real chaos.

That's one thing. The second: What I thought is lacking in this document is really the implementation. Though I heard some of the panelists say it's not needed, personally I believe it is needed. I hope the day will come when the United Nations' General Assembly approves this [declaration] and in it, they will inject language to encourage all states in the world to make laws for human responsibility.

I have heard from the panelists about how the United States' stand [in the war on terror] has been supported by Great Britain and some other countries like Australia. It's true, but we have to remember that this slogan, which has been fabricated here, other countries by all sorts of means and pressure had to agree to. You must have read all the polls in the United Kingdom and Spain and other countries, which on the surface have supported the stand of the United States saying, war on terrorism, and all that goes with it. But public opinion was completely against it. It was absolutely against it, but certainly the big power has said this, so other people have to follow.

The amazing thing is, up to this minute, we never hear people trying to understand why there is terrorism. Why? I'll tell you, I am a good Muslim. I am not a fanatic Muslim. I am nearly 80 years old. I never ever, ever heard any Muslim cleric or otherwise say that we ought to fight democracy in the United States of America or to destroy it. Not a single moment. So this is jargon that is not true, but unfortunately, it has spread to the extent that war between civilizations might come by some pressure from somewhere.

Up to 10 or 15 years ago, I tell you, all the Arabs, all the Muslims loved, loved, loved, loved, loved the United States of America because the United States of America used to represent justice, fairness, giving a hand, warmth, accepting people to come and study, helping them to have scholarships, helping them to get in universities. All of a sudden, because of bias, because of injustice, things have turned around. We hope, soon enough, that this should change.

I don't want to go any further, but I believe if we, in the InterAction Council, try to approach the United Nations with a good mechanism, and meet and talk there to the heads of the missions, I assume out of the 190 states, over 180 will be with [the Declaration of Human Responsibilities]. Possibly 10 will not agree with it, but 180 is good enough if we believe in democracy.

Thank you and God bless you all.