‘A BAT­TLE BE­TWEEN GOOD AND EVIL’

Trump bears ‘mes­sage of friend­ship and hope and love’

New Straits Times - - News -

RIYADH

UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day urged Is­lamic lead­ers to take a stand against vi­o­lence done in the name of re­li­gion, de­scrib­ing the strug­gle against ex­trem­ism as a “bat­tle be­tween good and evil”.

In a highly-an­tic­i­pated speech in Saudi Ara­bia, Trump lashed out at Iran, ac­cus­ing Te­heran of fu­elling “the fires of sec­tar­ian con­flict and ter­ror” and call­ing for its in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion.

Say­ing he came with “a mes­sage of friend­ship and hope and love”, Trump told Mus­lim lead­ers that the time had come for “hon­estly con­fronting the cri­sis of Is­lamist ex­trem­ism”.

“This is a bat­tle be­tween bar­baric crim­i­nals who seek to oblit­er­ate hu­man life, and de­cent peo­ple of all re­li­gions who seek to pro­tect it. This is a bat­tle be­tween good and evil.”

The speech came on the sec­ond day of a visit to Saudi Ara­bia, part of Trump’s first for­eign tour that will take him next to Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and then to Europe.

The White House has sought to draw a clear dis­tinc­tion dur­ing the visit with Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama, who Saudi Ara­bia and its Sunni Arab al­lies saw as lec­tur­ing and soft on their Shia ri­val Iran.

Trump did not hes­i­tate to sin­gle out Iran in his speech.

“From Le­banon to Iraq to Ye­men, Iran funds, arms and trains ter­ror­ists, mili­tias and other ex­trem­ist groups that spread de­struc­tion and chaos across the re­gion,” Trump said.

“Un­til the Ira­nian regime is will­ing to be a part­ner for peace, all na­tions of con­science must work to­gether to iso­late it.”

He ap­pealed to Mus­lim na­tions to en­sure that “ter­ror­ists find no sanc­tu­ary on their soil” and an­nounced an agree­ment with Gulf coun­tries to fight fi­nanc­ing for ex­trem­ists.

In­tro­duc­ing Trump, Saudi King Sal­man Ab­du­laziz Al-Saud called Iran “the spear­head of global ter­ror­ism”.

Un­like the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which would of­ten raise con­cerns over civil lib­er­ties with long­stand­ing Arab al­lies, Trump had made no men­tion of hu­man rights dur­ing his visit.

“We are not here to lec­ture. We are not here to tell other peo­ple how to live, or how to wor­ship. In­stead, we are here to of­fer part­ner­ship, based on shared in­ter­ests and values,” Trump said.

Some 35 heads of state and gov­ern­ment from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries were in Riyadh for the Arab Is­lamic Amer­i­can Sum­mit.

Much of the fo­cus dur­ing the sum­mit was on coun­ter­ing what Gulf states see as the threat from Iran, which op­poses Saudi Ara­bia in a range of re­gional con­flicts from Syria to Ye­men.

Trump’s speech was touted as a ma­jor event, along the lines of a land­mark ad­dress to the Is­lamic world by Obama in Cairo in 2009.

It was es­pe­cially sen­si­tive given ten­sions sparked by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempted travel ban targeting sev­eral Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity na­tions and his pre­vi­ous re­marks on Is­lam.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Trump told a cam­paign rally he was call­ing for a “to­tal shut­down” of Mus­lims en­ter­ing the US “un­til our coun­try’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives can fig­ure out what the hell is go­ing on”.

His words shocked many Amer­i­cans, with Trump 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 an in­ter­view with CNN in March last year.

Still, Trump was wel­comed warmly in Saudi Ara­bia, where he and First Lady Me­la­nia Trump were given an ex­trav­a­gant re­cep­tion by King Sal­man and the royal fam­ily.

The first day saw the an­nounce­ment of hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in trade deals, wel­come news for Trump as he faces mount­ing trou­bles at home linked with the probe into al­leged Rus­sian med­dling dur­ing last year’s elec­tion cam­paign. AFP

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