Donald Trump has called on Muslim leaders to do their fair share to “drive out” terrorists from their own countries in a speech that put the burden on the Arab region to combat extremists.
President Trump, who is domestically defending his executive order banning visitors from six Muslim-majority countries, called the fight against Islamic terror a “battle between good and evil”.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilisations,” the US President told the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority countries at an Arab-Islamic-American summit in Riyadh.
“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.”
Mr Trump told the leaders while the US was prepared to stand with them, “the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them”.
“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists,” he said.
“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and, frankly, for their families and for their children.”
The President said it would be up to Muslims themselves to purge their societies of the “foot soldiers of evil”.
“Drive them out,” Mr Trump said.
“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.”
The speech came during President Trump’s first overseas visit since taking office. The next stop on his nine-day tour will be Israel later Monday.
The speech, held in a gilded hall bedecked with chandeliers, is part of an effort by the Trump administration to reset its relationship with the Islamic world after frequently attacking Muslims during the US election campaign.
President Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who set aside his campaign rhetoric about Muslims and focused on his desire to crack down on Iran’s influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in his predecessor Barack Obama.
Mr Trump’s signature phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was not included in the speech.
Instead, he said “Islamist extremism”, which refers to Islamism as political movement rather than Islam as a religion, a distinction that he had frequently criticised the Obama administration for making.
Introducing President Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud described their mutual foe Iran as the source of terrorism they must confront together.
“Our responsibility before God and our people and the whole world is to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism wherever they are … The Iranian regime represents the tip of the spear of global terrorism.”
Iran – which was not invited to the summit – is a Shi’ite Muslim country, while Saudi Arabia and many of is Gulf neighbours are Sunni majority.
The groups that the US has been fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York are mostly Sunni Muslims, and enemies of Iran.
The US and Gulf Arab countries announced an agreement to coordinate efforts against the financing of terrorist groups.
The speech came as President Trump attempts to escape the fallout from his May 9 firing of former FBI Director James Comey amid accusations he was trying to stop a federal investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia last year.
– With agencies