Queen Noor speaks for the have-nots

Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, the author of a best-selling autobiography, “Leap of Faith” (Hyperion), told a full house in Irvine Auditorium on September 8 that “the United Nations is one of the most powerful engines for co-operation in the world.”

Her 30-minute talk took as its text the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious agenda endorsed by every member nation that aims to increase world security by 2015. “Security,” she said, “rests on the well-being of the less fortunate.”

The talk by the tall blonde American architect and urban planner, who became royalty when she married the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1978, was presented by SPEC Connaissance and the Provost’s Spotlight Series.

She explained each of the eight goals—eradication of extreme poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, environmental sustainability and development of global partnerships—to a rapt audience. To each goal she added her own thoughts and experiences working to achieve them in Jordan and around the world.

Islam misunderstood

She noted that it was Islamic Awareness Week at Penn and presented an eloquent defense of Islam as a progressive and enlightened religion that has been distorted and misinterpreted.

“Islamic law treats males and females equally,” she said. “The oppression of women is not part of Islam but contrary to it.”

In the question and answer period that followed her talk, the queen was asked several questions about the current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Stressing that she was answering only for herself and not for Jordan, she said, “Politicians on both sides do not represent the will of their citizens [who truly want peace], but appeal to the lowest common denominator.”

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Originally published on October 16, 2003