President Donald Trump delivered a plea for Muslims around the world to rid their communities of the “evil” of terrorism, in a landmark address in Saudi Arabia on Sunday that marked a stark departure from past, confrontational rhetoric about the Muslim world.
Instead of collectively blaming Muslims for the rise of extremist groups like ISIS, he presented terrorism as the subject of a bipolar conflict within Islam. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people,” said Trump, speaking to a summit of Arab and Muslim heads of state in Saudi Arabia’s capital. “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 the earth,” he continued.
He employed rhetorical devices reminiscent of the George W. Bush administration, setting up a dichotomy between good and evil in the Muslim world.
Standing in a vast, glittering conference hall, the American president appeared to throw his weight behind Saudi Arabia in the regional feud with Iran, castigating the Shi'ite-majority country for having "fueled fires of sectarian conflict" throughout the Middle East. "It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room," he said of Iran.
His tone on his Sunni hosts painted an entirely different picture. Reading remarks from a teleprompter, Trump invoked the rich cultural history of the Middle East, and also painted a picture of an aspirational and peaceful future. “The birthplace of civilizations is ready to begin a new renaissance,” he said.
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