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World & Nation

Trump’s speech draws mixed reaction from Muslim world

Trump

President Donald Trump is seated during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017.

(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Times

Even before Jordan’s King Abdullah took the microphone, moments after President Trump had finished his address at the Riyadh summit, reactions were already flooding social media.

“Bravo President Trump,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, who described the speech as “effective and historic” and “defining [an] approach towards extremism and terrorism with candid respect and friendship.”

“America’s role reaffirmed,” he concluded in another tweet.

But many Muslims, especially those outside the Gulf states, were less enthusiastic.

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The Palestinian group Hamas, which holds sway over the Gaza strip, condemned Trump’s words. In a statement by spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, the Islamist group labeled the speech a “slander against the reputation of the resistance of the [Palestinian] people.”

In his address, Trump had lumped Hamas along with Islamic State and Al Qaeda as terrorist groups.

“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,” Trump had exhorted Muslim leaders congregated at the summit.

Barhoum criticized Trump for showing “total bias to the Zionist occupation,” in a reference to Israel. He added that Hamas was a “nationalist liberation movement.”

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Trump’s hard line against Iran, which came two days after a landmark election that cemented President Hassan Rouhani’s reformist agenda in the country, was seen by some Iranians as a slap in the face.

“Just when Iranians voted overwhelmingly for openness and engagement with [the] world, Trump clenched his fist and responded by calling for Iran’s isolation. It raises the question as to whether the United States wants to lose Iran as an enemy,” said Iranian academic and author Trita Parsi in an email statement on Sunday.

“Combining isolation with a call for regime change — ironically after the Iranians went and massively participated in their presidential elections — is how the groundwork for the Iraq war was laid,” she cautioned.

American Muslim groups also reacted with caution, applauding Trump’s conciliatory tone even while condemning some of his administration’s policies, such as its attempt to enact a temporary travel ban against six majority-Muslim countries.

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“While President Trump’s address today in Saudi Arabia appears to be an attempt to set a new and more productive tone in relations with the Muslim world, one speech cannot outweigh years of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals — including an attempt to enact a Muslim ban by executive order, which his administration continues to defend in court,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, in a statement on Sunday.

“We welcome President Trump’s recognition of Islam as ‘one of the world’s great faiths,’ but that recognition does not wipe out years of well-documented anti-Islam animus,” Awad added. “New policies and concrete actions — not mere rhetoric — are what is needed to reset relations with the Muslim world.”

An arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which Trump hailed in his speech, was also a source of criticism.

“Historically, arms trade results in more fighting, more wars and more extremism,” said Salaam Bhatti, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in a phone interview on Sunday.

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“While we applaud the president for saying that Muslims are the victims of 95% of terrorism, rather than the arms trade, we ask that nations improve education and invest in proven models for peace.”

@nabihbulos

twitter:@nabihbulos


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