Critics will argue upon first inspection that President Trump’s speech to Arab leaders in Riyadh today was scarcely a shift from President [Muslim Brotherhood member] Obama’s infamous, fawned over lecture in Cairo in 2009. Those critics are incorrect.
They’re incorrect because they’ll tend to be journalists, activists, think-tankers, politicians, or pundits. In other words: no business people.
The speech President Trump gave in Riyadh was different because of his business acumen. No businessman concludes a meeting without the cliched “action points”. Otherwise, the whole thing is a waste of time.
We can easily find similarities in both their speeches: the usual diplomatic gratitude towards their hosts, the pledges not to lecture, the aggrandizement of the region’s history, and the aversion to describing Western vs. Middle Eastern philosophies as a “clash of civilizations”. Fine.
But where Obama stopped short, Trump continued full speed into making demands of the people in the room.
Obama opened with “Assalamualaikum”, going on to apologise for colonialism, proxy wars, hostility to Islam, and quoting the “Holy” Quran. He spoke of civilization’s “debt to Islam”, his responsibility to defend the Muslim faith, the hijab, and declare “Islam is a part of America”.
After this submissive introduction — having spent the first seven pages of his speech brown-nosing his audience — he noted that “violent extremists” needed to be confronted, closing with: “Islam is not part of the problem…”
Instead, President Trump dived right in, spending less than a page on the flattery — and there was scarcely any in that section anyway — getting to the first action point by page two of his speech: “This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase…”
If America is going to deal with the Arab world under a Trump presidency, it is at least going to get something out of it for the American people. Cash, jobs, and importantly, leverage.
Wait, you thought that was all? The very next sentence announced the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.
Let’s be clear, this center will do nothing, and likely achieve nothing. But by this point in Obama’s speech, he was quoting Quranic Surah 9, Verse 119, which he claimed said: “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth”. In reality, the passage demands the reader to be fearful of Allah, and just a few verses later explains why: “O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous”.
While President Obama lectured from the Quran, President Trump was declaring today: “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”.
DEFENDING MUSLIMS FROM RADICAL ISLAM
Both presidents Obama and Trump made mention of how Muslims are the primary target of “violent extremism”, but Obama’s defense of Muslims came more in the way of the following, than anything else:
…freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it.
Later on, he mentions how extremists have “killed people of different faiths, more than any other, they have killed Muslims”.
But President Trump was far more robust, and far more — undoubtedly to the chagrin of liberal commentators — spirited in his defence of young Muslims who are having their minds poisoned and futures ruined.
This is the most effective argument against Islamic extremism, and President Trump put it simply, and effectively, as follows:
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.
Notice the difference. No apologia for Sharia-compliant hijabs, no caveats or compromises. He goes on:
“…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”.
Obama’s conclusion in this section was again to quote the Quran. This time, the contentious Surah Al Maidah, often deployed by Islamist organizations themselves when seeking to defend against allegations of radicalism or terror links:
The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Quran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
Except it doesn’t.
The verse, without paraphrasing, actually reads:
“…We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”.
“Corruption” in the land, in context, is opposition to to the spread of Islam, which includes critique, mockery, or even disbelief.
The very next paragraph of the Quran reads: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment”.
Perhaps the most striking difference between President Obama’s speech and that of President Trump’s is the section on Iran.
Obama — with doe-eyed naiveté — began with another acknowledgement of American guilt:
“In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known”.
He moved on to state:
“I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.
As we now know, this approach has endangered the wider world, with Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, and emboldened terror-supporting regimes and their allies the world over to do the same. Without this approach, without this line in this speech, even Kim Jong Un would be singing a different tune today.
President Trump appears to want to right that historical wrong, stating today his wish to isolate the nation from the civilized world. Again, an action point:
From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.
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.
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.
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.
TOLERANCE, OR LACK THEREOF
Where Obama declared “Islam has a proud history of tolerance” as the Mullahs prepared their latest homosexual to be thrown from a building, and the most recent woman to be stoned in the street, President Trump demanded: “Your soul will be condemned” for barbaric acts, a sentiment that found its crescendo when he declared: “This is a battle between Good and Evil”, insisting that Arab and Muslim leaders “drive out” the forces of terror and extremism within their ranks.
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.
Contrast this with President Obama’s section on tolerance, specifically, with regards women’s rights and economic opportunity.
Curiously for a Hollywood-affirmed liberal, President Obama told the Cairo audience: “I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home”.
Such socially conservative statements would perhaps be more readily expected from Vice President Mike Pence. But the media — neither at the time, nor now — seemed to pick up on it. Obama’s own tolerance for conservative values applied only in the Muslim world, it seems, not at home.
President Trump used the word “terror” in some way — terror, terrorism, terrorists — a whopping 31 times in his speech in Riyadh. In Cairo, President Obama used the word an even more whopping ZERO times.
Obama described 9/11 as an “enormous trauma” rather than a terrorist atrocity, opting to deploy the word “extremism” 11 times in his speech, which President Trump also used nine times.
As a result, Obama lacked action points, policy goals, or anything of substance when it came to tacking terrorism. President Trump on the other hand announced the formulation of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, insisting: “Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion”.
Oh yeah, and President Trump said: “Islamic terrorism”, just FYI.
The way the two presidents concluded their speeches is proof enough of how differently the two men approach the issues of Islam, Islamism, terrorism, and the U.S. relationship with the Middle East.
While Ivanka and Melanie strut around Riyadh in designer clothes, and the current president refuses to bow before the Saudis, Obama took every opportunity to remain prostrate before the Muslim world, in action, as well as in his words.
In Cairo, he concluded with quotes from the Quran first, then the Talmud, then the Bible.
His Quranic verse: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female…” may not find much support from the LGBTQI++** brigade of the liberal left today. He closed: “Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. Thank you very much”.
President Trump’s conclusion, in addition to being more traditional, was also more hopeful, and effectively called for a much-needed Islamic reformation:
The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.
Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people. Parents who no longer worry for their children, families who no longer mourn for their loved ones, and the faithful who finally worship without fear.
These are the blessings of prosperity and peace. These are the desires that burn with a righteous flame in every human heart. And these are the just demands of our beloved peoples.
I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to fight together—because united, we will not fail.
Thank you. God Bless You. God Bless Your Countries. And God Bless the United States of America.
President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama delivered addresses to the Muslim world at roughly the same point in their respective presidencies.
But unlike Obama, who attempted to appease Islamic resentment of the West by admitting America’s faults, Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday emphasized terrorism and challenged the Arab and Muslim world to foster peace by “honestly confronting the problem of Islamic extremism, and the Islamists, and Islamic terror of all kinds.”
The first difference between the two speeches was the setting. Trump addressed a summit of Arab and Muslim leaders at a conference to deal with terrorism. Obama, by contrast, invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood to his address at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Trump rallied the nations of the region to deal with a problem in their midst; Obama gave legitimacy to a banned group associated with terror and extremist ideology.
Obama began his address by focusing on western guilt:
More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
In contrast, Trump began by declaring that “Muslim countries must take the lead in combating radicalization. He said that he was not there to lecture to others about how to worship, but to call for unity “in pursuing the one goal: … to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces that terrorism brings with it every single time,” singling out “young Muslim men and women.”
Trump went further, taking on “terrorism and the ideology that drives it.” He listed recent terror attacks in the U.S. and around the world, and noted that “the deadliest toll has been extracted from the innocent people of Arab and Muslim nations.” The optimism of the region, he said, was “held at bay by bloodshed and terror.” And he added: “There can be no co-existence with this violence.”
Obama, too, had emphasized that many of the victims of groups like Al Qaeda were Muslim. Like Obama, Trump distanced terror from faith, suggesting terrorists falsely used the name of God, and implying that the problem was not limited to Islam, But Trump did not shy away from the link to Islam, whereas Obama sought to absolve Islam itself of any link with terrorism.
Obama said: “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.” Obama never even used the word “terror.” He simply referred to “violence against civilians” by “extremists,” whom he never connected directly to Islam.
In contrast, Trump told the gathering in Saudi Arabia to “[d]rive them [terrorists] out from your places of worship,” and exhorted the nations present to make sure “terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.”
Obama defended America to the Muslim world by emphasizing America’s connection to Islam — almost describing the U.S. as a Muslim nation itself. “[L]et there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America,” Obama declared. He cited exaggerated population figures for Muslims in the U.S.: “nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today,” he claimed.
Trump, in contrast, praised the achievements of the Arab and Muslim world in the region itself, but did not try to remake America in Islam’s image. Trump also spoke in a forthright manner about the persecution of Jews, whereas Obama irritated Israelis by claiming Israel was created because of the Holocaust.
Both presidents were gracious to their audience. Both downplayed the idea of interfering in the affairs of the Muslim world, unlike earlier administrations. Trump offered the Saudis the “friendship, and hope, and love” of the American people, and praised his hosts as the guardians of “the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith.” Trump also praised the arms deal he had reached with Saudi Arabia the day before, which he said would help both sides.
Obama was somewhat less focused on Egypt itself, but was effusive in his praise of Islam in general, crediting it — with some exaggeration — with making the European enlightenment possible, and with fostering religious tolerance.
Yet Trump was clear about the need to confront Iran as a common challenge to peace in the entire region. He even implied that regime change was an ultimate goal of U.S. policy toward Iran. Obama, in contrast, appeased Iran and accepted blame, publicly, for a “role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government” in the 1950s.
Early media reports suggest that Trump’s speech is being described as “moderate,” because he did not use the signature phrase “radical Islamic terror.” That is not accurate: the principal objection to Obama’s evasion was the absence of the word “Islam,” which Trump addressed directly. But if that is indeed how the speech was received, then Trump achieved something great indeed: identifying the eradication of Islamic terror as a “moderate” value.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
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