RIYADH: US President Donald Trump has implored Muslim leaders to take the lead in fighting extremism, speaking at a high-level summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The president, who is on his first foreign visit since taking office, spoke at the Arab Islamic US Summit in Riyadh.
Donald Trump is set to deliver a major speech on Islam during his visit to Saudi Arabia, just two months after he signed revised orders to halt people from six Muslim-majority nations from entering the US.
During a lunch with up to 50 Muslim leaders in Riyadh on Sunday, Trump is expected to express his “hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam”, a day after Washington took issue with Iran.
The speech has been touted as a major event along the lines of a landmark address to the Islamic world given by his predecessor Barack Obama in Cairo in 2009.
It will be especially sensitive given tensions sparked by the Trump administration’s attempted travel ban .
During his campaign, Trump floated the idea of putting mosques in the US under surveillance while calling for a “total shutdown”
His words shocked many Americans, with Trump’s detractors noting that the US Constitution prohibits religious discrimination.
“I think Islam hates us. There is a tremendous hatred there. We have to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said in a March 2016 interview.
Sunday’s address comes a day after the US and Saudi Arabia signed agreements worth more than $380bn – almost a third of that military-related.
“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump said on Saturday at talks with Saudi King Salman.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set the tone on Saturday when he urged Iran’s newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani
Tillerson also said the new arms deals signed between Riyadh and Washington aim to help Saudi Arabia deal “with malign Iranian influence”.
According to excerpts of the speech released by the White House, Trump will call on Arab leaders to confront “Islamist extremism”, and portray fighting “terrorism” as a battle between good and evil.
“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it,” the excerpts said.
“That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.
“The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children,” Trump was expected to say.
Trump would be treading carefully as he addresses the Islamic dignitaries. Trump also leveled critism against Iran which he said had flamed the fires of sectarian violence from “Lebanon to Iraq, to Yemen.”
He said that nations need to work together to “isolate” Iran. “The Iranian regime’s longest suffering victims are the Iranian people,” Trump said.
Trump also said that he plans to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on his foreign visit, and said that peace between the two sides was possible.
Trump thanked King Salman “for the creation of this great moment in history,” and for “investing in the future of this part of the world.”
Leaders from around the Muslim world gathered in Riyadh to hear Trump give his historic address.
The Malaysian prime minister, Iraqi and Indonesian presidents were given a royal welcome by King Salman.
The US president is taking part in a summit with leaders from 50 countries across the Muslim world.
King Salman and President Trump are set to inaugurate the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI), which will counter and prevent the spread of extremist ideology through promoting moderation, compassion and supporting the dissemination of positive dialogue.
Trump has been welcomed warmly in Saudi Arabia, where he and first lady Melania Trump were given an extravagant reception by King Salman and other members of the Saudi royal family.
Trump was awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, attended a series of banquets and receptions and bobbed up and down with dancers in a traditional sword dance welcome ceremony.
“This speech comes against the backdrop of Trump’s Muslim ban, which he has pursued both in his campaign and in his first 100 days as president,” he said.
“His remarks about refugees and Islam were seen as inflammatory, as anti-Islam and anti-Muslim. In his speech, Trump will likely insist on tackling radical ideologies, while staying away from anything that could be interpreted as targeting Islam or the Muslim world.”
Trump’s influential national security adviser, HR McMaster, has said he will deliver “an inspiring, direct speech”.
“He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” McMaster said ahead of the visit.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the speech would be “uplifting”.
“He’ll talk about what unites us in uplifting terms, but he’ll also be very blunt in talking about the need to confront extremism and the fact that many in the Muslim world have not only not done enough, they’ve actively abetted this extremism, even as some of them have talked a good game on the surface but in quiet, continue to fund extremism.”