President Trump today in what will be his first high-stakes speech abroad is expected to take a more measured tone on Islam than his harsh rhetoric during the campaign.
In a speech before a group of leaders of Middle Eastern countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the president is expected to encourage them to join the U.S. in fighting against radical groups like ISIS.
Rather than painting Islam as an apparent enemy of the U.S., as Trump did during the presidential campaign, he will depict the Muslim world as an important partner.
“We’re going to have the president basically saying that this is not a war between the West and Islam,” a senior administration official told ABC News. “This a war between good and evil, and we all have to come together to try to attack it.”
Trump’s trip to the Middle East is a chance to “start a new chapter in the history of the region,” the official said.
In an early draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press, Trump makes no references to “radical Islamicterrorism,” a term that has been a hallmark of his rhetoric at domestic events. He does in the draft remarks urge Muslim leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship.”
The president worked on the speech during the 12-hour flight on Air Force One from Washington, D.C., to Riyadh, and in his weekly address Saturday gave a sense of what he will say today: “Many of these leaders have expressed growing concern about terrorism, the spread of radicalization and Iran’s role in funding both. Now it appears Muslim leaders are ready to take more responsibility and a much bigger role in fighting terrorism in their region.”
Trump’s speech about the fight against extremism comes on the second day of his first trip abroad as president. He met with leaders in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and signed a new $110 billion arms agreement between the two nations. “That was a tremendous day,” Trump told reporters. “Tremendous investments into the United States, and our military community is very happy.”
The president will also visit Israel and the Vatican during the trip which is taking place as controversies swirl in the U.S. around the investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in the 2016 election, which could take attention away from the overseas diplomatic initiative.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s upcoming speech:
What to expect
White House officials say Trump will focus on the battle against extremism in his address to the more than 50 Middle Eastern leaders.
“He will deliver an inspiring, yet direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and his hopes, the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world,” said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in a press briefing on Tuesday. “The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners.”
Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who played a key part in writing the president’s travel ban, which is now tied up in the courts, played a key role in writing this speech.
The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, said in a statement Wednesday, “If President Trump wishes to reach out to ordinary Muslims in the Middle East and around the world, he should avoid … pejorative terminology, anti-Muslim stereotypes and counterproductive policies,” he said. “A truly inspiring speech would focus on the universal desire for justice, freedom and human dignity.”
What Trump said during the campaign and since taking office
Trump made the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” a staple of his campaign speeches, including frequently criticizing President Obama for not using that term. Trump has also used this term since his inauguration in his joint address to Congress.
Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
In a March 2016 interview with CNN, Trump said “Islam hates us,” and that “it’s very hard to separate” between the billions of peaceful Muslims worldwide and violent extremists.
“I think Islam hates us,” Trump said. “There’s something — there’s something there that is a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”
“We have to be very vigilant. We have to be very careful. And we can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States,” he continued. When asked whether all of Islam hates the United States or just violent extremists, Trump said it’s “very hard to define.” “It’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who,” he said.
Trump also during the campaign called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States during the campaign. “Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until out country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” he said.
After the election, he signed an executive order to restrict travel into the U.S. of people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The travel ban was stayed by a federal court. A revised version of the order has also been temporarily blocked by federal courts. The Trump administration’s appeal of that decision is to be heard in court Monday.