updated 7/4/2005 1:49:30 PM ET 2005-07-04T17:49:30

The king of Jordan told Islamic scholars and clergy Monday that Muslim extremists are to blame for “malicious” attacks against their religion by non-Muslims.

Terrorists “generate turmoil and corruption on earth, because they give justification to non-Muslims to judge Islam according to acts that Islam disavows, and subsequently interfere in Muslims’ affairs,” King Abdullah II told about 180 religious leaders from 40 countries, many wearing traditional Arab gowns.

The king is seen as a key U.S. ally in the Middle East and a voice of moderation in a region plagued by violence. Islamists like Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi criticize Jordan for its close ties with the West, and Jordanian security forces have waged a fierce anti-terrorism campaign.

Muslims urged to reject extremism
Abdullah called on the gathering to help implement a Jordanian initiative launched in November — dubbed the “Amman Message” — urging Muslims to reject extremism, embrace moderation and tolerate other religions.

“As a start, let us confess that we, Muslims, have not always fulfilled our obligations toward ourselves,” Abdullah said. “Some Muslims, or those who promulgate ’Islamic’ slogans, have defamed Islam and Muslims, intentionally or non-intentionally.”

The king apparently referred to Islamic extremists in Iraq responsible for scores of attacks targeting U.S.-led coalition troops , Iraqi security forces and in many cases ordinary Iraqis in their self declared holy war, or jihad, against that country’s foreign occupation.

Sunni Muslim extremists like al-Zarqawi have said Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslim population should be attacked in a bid to start a civil war.

In Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida-linked militants have waged a 2-year-long campaign against the country’s U.S.-allied regime, which extremists accuse of siding with infidels by allowing foreign forces onto Saudi soil where the two holiest shrines in Islam are located.

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