Donald Trump took to the podium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday May 21, 2017, to speak to leaders of 50 Muslim countries about Islam. People on both sides of the political and ideological divide have been waiting to hear what the United States President would say, with some anticipating a train wreck of a speech, calling this a bad idea.. Instead, President Trump used the speech to attempt a reset of his relationship with Islam and with the leaders of countries who have been outspoken in their criticism of the newly elected leader.
Remarkably, President Trump was calm and spoke with almost eloquent grace as he touched upon key points. Gone was the fiery Islamophobic rhetoric that he used on the campaign trails; gone were the calls that “Islam hates us,” as he told Anderson Cooper in March of 2016. The Trump who spoke of implementing a Muslim-targeting database and placing mosques under 24/7 surveillance was nowhere to be heard.
Instead, President Trump spoke of the need and responsibility of Middle Eastern leadership to confront the roots of Islamist extremism at home and the place of the United States in helping them institute gradual reforms rather than strike with direct interventions.
Trump began the speech in calm and measured tones, speaking to the gathered leaders, saying that he stood before them “as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love.”
President Trump used the speech to stress that the United States is not at war with Islam. He defined the battle against Islamic State militants as a battle between the forces of good and evil.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion. People want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.”
During the speech, President Trump spoke of his promise during his inaugural address for the United States to not impose its way of life on other countries; during that speech on January 20, 2017, he said, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”
Following that train of thought, Trump shifted more of the responsibility to confront terrorism onto the gathered leaders, telling them that they cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The president said that the United States will make decisions that are not based on some inflexible ideology, but rather focused on real-world outcomes. He also said that the days of direct intervention were past, and instead, whenever possible, the United States would seek gradual reforms.
“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and, frankly, for their families and for their children.
As Trump continued, he touched upon how they themselves are the predominant victims of terrorism. The president iterated a list of major terrorist attacks on American soil before saying. “In sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern nations. More than 95% of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”
As President Trump concluded his speech, he called on the leaders to drive out the terrorists from their countries. “Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.”
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]