Howk’s Notes of President Trump’s Speech in Saudi Arabia
Jason Criss Howk
21 May 2017
People have already started to reach out to me to ask how President Trump’s speech went today and how it will be received in Muslim nations. While Muslims are part of a diverse religious community and that means many different reactions will occur; we can at least assess his comments. My thoughts and a quick-read summary are marked with ###.
I have given this upcoming speech a bit of thought over the last two years as I led interfaith dialogues across the East Coast to explain the basics of Islam to everyday Americans or taught classes to a variety of students. I thought even more about how to talk about the problems facing the Middle East while interpreting the Qur’an into a modern English text, which I am publishing on 15 June. Finally I gave the idea of a speech like this weeks of intensive thought while working in Washington DC on the bi-partisan Presidential Transition Team focused on Middle Eastern and Muslim national security and foreign policy issues.
A full transcript of the speech can be found here: CNN
### First we should examine the optics of the event. This is President Trump’s overseas trip and his first stop was to talk to leaders of over 50 Muslim countries. He was met at the plane by the King of Saudi Arabia; the First Lady, with uncovered hair, was standing right beside Trump. The King shook the First Lady’s hand right after the president’s. During the warm up events before the speech Ivanka and Melania, both uncovered, wandered around Riyadh promoting women’s rights and entrepreneurship.
The team that accompanied Trump included his economic and diplomacy advisors. Out of the four major tools that America has (diplomacy, information/intelligence, military, and economics) Trump brought his economic and diplomatic leaders to bear. But not forgetting the need for military power in this dangerous world, Trump also signed a large military aid package with Saudi Arabia and spoke with other Muslim leaders about security plans.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia introduced President Trump as he stood to face hundreds of Muslim leaders from across the region. Behind Trump and the King sat the First Lady and the Secretary of State. Behind them sat Trump’s daughter and son in law. It was not lost on the audience that Jared Kushner is Jewish and one of the Trump team’s leaders on the Israel-Palestinian peace process, or that both women had their hair uncovered.
President Trump delivered his view of current and future US-Muslim relations. Here are some highlights and what they mean. ###
“I want to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today’s summit….You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people…and alongside…President Franklin Roosevelt…began the enduring partnership between our two countries.
…today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to our citizens.”
### It was clear to everyone that the Saudi government pulled out all stops to make this event first class and welcoming. Despite the campaign rhetoric and some ignorant sounding remarks from campaign and administration officials the region was ready for a reset of relations and they think that Trump is the kind of leader that can deliver it. They took a chance that Trump had reflected more closely on the issue since assuming office and that he was willing to make a deal.
“Let me now also extend my deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of the distinguished heads of state who made this journey here today. You greatly honor us with your presence, and I send the warmest regards from my country to yours. I know that our time together will bring many blessings to both your people and mine.”
### He acknowledged this isn’t something that is done for everyone and he wants peace and not hostility to come from this partnership.
“I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.”
### This is important to me and I know getting this relationship right is important to you.
“…I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships…build new partnerships in pursuit of peace…that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.
Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.”
### I am laying out my Trump Doctrine and keeping my promises to help other nations solve their own problems instead of angering them; as lately they feel like we are only capable of lecturing them on our idea of a perfect society or using our military to force rapid changes on other societies.
“…[this] historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders…is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect… I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.”
### We are building a team to confront the various problems facing the Muslim World. If we do not, we will fail separately. Lots of groundwork was laid before this meeting and many messages not included in this speech were clearly passed through multiple channels.
“Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia…. includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase”
### This trip is about economics and strengthening our defense relationships, a message to those who want to do us harm. Muslim nations must spend their own money on winning the upcoming conflicts.
“we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology — located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization…”
### The real battle we are facing is ideological and the Muslim world must lead the way in stopping the radicalization of its youths by Islamist ideologues.
“America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.”
### American Security is based on you solving your own problems with Islamist radicalization but we will be your partner. Let’s take action and not lecture each other.
“we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.”
### we all need to admit that violent extremists are the most serious obstacle to peace in the region.
“Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred. And young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves and their peoples.”
### if you don’t admit to and tackle this problem you are poor leaders and failing your youth.
“With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East — and maybe, even all over the world. But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.”
### We need a fresh start and you have a chance to be the generation of leaders that acknowledges the ideology that underpins modern Middle Eastern terrorism…and counters it.
“Few nations have been spared its violent reach.
…But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence.
Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”
### Muslims are most often the first target of violent radical Islamists. We recognize that fact and we want to help the ~1.6 billion Muslims that are tired of living with this threat.
“We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across the planet…
The true toll of ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams.”
### There are a variety of radical Islamist ideologues in the region that are destroying the future of your people.
“The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.
This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.”
### Your failed leadership is squandering the resources you have. You have work to do. Your people deserve better.
“The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.
But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”
### listen to the dreams of your youths. You cannot make deals with the devil and allow violence to destroy the way of life your people want. No more excuses. Time to face your issues and take action.
“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.
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.
If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.
If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.
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 of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.”
### Violent radical Islamist ideologues are not following a religion they are following their own twisted beliefs. Don’t let those scumbags claim your religion. This is about evil and despicable people murdering and threatening innocent people. We get it!
“When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni.”
### This is a human problem, not just a Muslim one.
“But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong — and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.
### We must collaborate or evil ideologues will win.
“Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.
America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security.
But 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.
It is a choice between two futures — and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.”
### We will be your partner. But this ideology stems from your culture and you must admit it and solve it. America can’t fix this for you. Admit you have a problem and face it.
“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. 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.”
### Take action at every level to combat this ideology and the ones who spread it. Or suffer the consequences.
“For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.
Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes — not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms — not sudden intervention.
We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.
Above all, America seeks peace — not war.”
### We are listening, so tell us how to help you. We will help you and keep our promises. We know that rapid reform can cause chaos, but you know you need to reform. We will partner with you to achieve your goals. We want peaceful resolutions.
“Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.
The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.”
### 1. We acknowledge that many of our partners are fighting to kill our enemies. But we “all” must find and eject “all” ideologues and fighters everywhere they hide.
“As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.
…today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center — co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”
### 2. We must cut all terrorist financing…all of it.
“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.”
### Trump has been listening to his deep experts on Islam and wants to explain that he understands the difference between Islam the religion and Islamism the failed political ideology that inspires so many violent radical terrorists. He is no longer just relying on so-called “counterterrorism experts.” He was not there to scream “jihad is evil” from the rooftops.
“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.
And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them. Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.”
### 3. Religious and political leaders must all reject and undermine the tenets of radical Islamism and look at the future with an eye towards human rights for all.
“That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life — including women, children, and followers of all faiths. Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities.”
### All people in the region must be respected and protected. This is a way to raise the critical issue of equality without beating them over the head with it.
“…after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican — visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible — including peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
### We are all in this together. Demonizing other people’s faiths is not a solution.
“Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.”
### These are the three current pillars of the policy. No territory, no funding, and undermine the ideology of radical Islamism.
“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.
…Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime — launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.”
### Iran is still the number one state sponsor of terrorism and we know the last administration emboldened them. We won’t let them dominate the region, as we are asking you to reign in violence.
“Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region. The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.
Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”
### Syria and ISIS must be dealt with and Iran can be part of that solution if their government would listen to their people and not their hardline Islamist leader.
“…you can only unlock this future if the citizens of the Middle East are freed from extremism, terror and violence.
We in this room are the leaders of our peoples. They look to us for answers, and for action. And when we look back at their faces, behind every pair of eyes is a soul that yearns for justice.
Today, billions of faces are now looking at us, waiting for us to act on the great question of our time.
Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth? If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair. But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.
The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.”
### The future is bright but you have to take extremism, terrorism, and violence more serious or you will rob your citizens of their future. Be selfless leaders and put your people first.
“I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.”
#Trump #Islamism #Islam #Terrorism