Trump Tells Muslim Leaders to ‘Drive Out’ Extremists

Published May 22nd, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
US President Donald Trump speaks during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump speaks during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump urged Muslim leaders to drive out "the foot soldiers of evil" on their soil during a major speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

"Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land," he said. "Drive them out of this Earth."

"A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists," Trump said in his high-stakes address on Islam to the Arab Islamic American summit in Riyadh.

The summit of 50 leaders is the highlight of Trump's two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the first stop on Trump's inaugural multi-nation tour as president.

Trump's scripted speech - which he said was meant to deliver a message of "friendship and hope and love" - struck a softer tone on Islam than at his fiery campaign rallies last year.

While the president spoke of combatting "Islamic extremism" and "Islamic terror," he did not use the inflammatory phrase "radical Islamic terrorism." 

He was deferential to his Saudi hosts and also called Islam one of world's "great faiths" - more than a year after his saying "Islam hates us" during the presidential race.

"Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith," he said.

He stressed that his administration was looking to strengthen partnerships across the region, and said the war on terrorism is not a fight between faiths but "a battle between good and evil."

But he launched sharp broadsides at Iran, the main rival of Saudi Arabia and its regional allies.

"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. 

"All nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran," said Trump, striking a confrontational stance toward Tehran that had been avoided by his White House predecessor Barack Obama.

At the beginning of the summit, King Salman said Riyadh had "had enough of its hostile practices and its interferences in Yemen and other countries in the region."

Saudi Arabia began an air military campaign in 2015 against Houthi rebels in Yemen, fearing that the Shiite group will give Iran a strategic foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia sees the visit as an opportunity to shore up support from its allies and the United States against its main rival, Iran.

The oil-rich kingdom also hopes the US will increase its attacks against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi Arabia praised Trump's administration when it launched in April dozens of missiles against the Shayrat airbase in central Syria, from where a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 civilians is thought to have been launched.

Earlier Sunday, Trump discussed security and arms deals with Gulf leaders before taking part part in a Saudi-led summit with leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), where the agenda included conflicts in Yemen and Syria as well as relations with Iran.

The summit came after the US and GCC countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a centre that will monitor sources of terrorism funding.

Saudi Arabia and the US also signed agreements worth 280 billion dollars, and vowed to work together to counter "common enemies".

A 110-billion-dollar weapons deal took effect immediately. It will be worth 350 billion dollars over 10 years.

Trump joined Salman and leaders of Muslim-dominated countries to inaugurate the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh.

The centre, which will also be known as Etedal, meaning "moderation," will monitor and analyse media and online resources and engage with social media to ensure it is free of terrorist ideology.

One of the rooms in the centre includes a dashboard of artificial intelligence information tracking online sentiments. With some 350 technicians in the main room, the centre also includes a media monitoring system that can track 100 TV channels in 11 different languages.

Trump departs Saudi Arabia on Monday to travel on to Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy, meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels and the Group of Seven (G7) in Sicily.

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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